Jul 262016

Searching through the digital libraries that are currently available on-line can render some wonderful finds. Here are a couple of illustrations from the Tovar Codex, attributed to Mexican Jesuit priest Juan de Tovar, from the John Carter Brown library online. Many more illustrations are included in the JCB Archive of Early American Images. 

Mexican Dance in the Tovar Codex

This colorful image depicts the dress and accoutrement of the traditional dance of Mexico’s native inhabitants, now often called “La Danza Azteca.” One of the central drummers is playing a teponaztle, a drum made of a hollowed log or cylinder, often elaborately carved, and with two tongues of different sizes producing different pitches. The other large drum appears to be a huehuetl, an upright hollow wooden cylinder with animal skins stretched over the top.

Title: “El modo de baylar de los Mexicanos. 17a y última del primer tratado.”
Source creator: Tovar, Juan de, ca. 1546-ca. 1626

Description: Dance of native Americans or Mexicans. Two drummers at the center wear the feathered epaulette seen in the portraits of the two Moctezumas. To the right of the drummers are the high priest wearing a tilma with the sun and soldiers representing the jaguar and eagle military caste. Decorative elements include feathered ornaments. (From the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University, Providence, R.I.)

The Seven Caves: Origin of the Mexican tribes

The second image from the Tovar Codex depicts the seven caves or origins of the seven tribes of the Nahua people.

Title: “figura 1a. Cuevas de los siete linajes que poblaron en México y alrededor dél”
Source creator: Tovar, Juan de, ca. 1546-ca. 1626

Description: Chicomoztoc, which means “seven caves,” the place from which the Aztec believed they came, was the Nahautl word for the mouth or womb. In the Aztec myth of creation, the Mexica left the bowels of the earth and settled in Aztlán, from which they acquired the name Aztec and from whence they undertook a migration southward in search of a sign for where they should settle once more. (From the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University, Providence, R.I.)

Nahuatl legends relate that seven tribes lived in Chicomoztoc, or “the place of the seven caves”. Each cave represented a different Nahua group: the Xochimilca, Tlahuica, Acolhua, Tlaxcalteca, Tepaneca, Chalca, and Mexica. Because of their common linguistic origin, those groups are called collectively “Nahuatlaca” (Nahua people). These tribes subsequently left the caves and settled “near” Aztlán. (Wikipedia contributors. “Aztlán.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Jul. 2016. Web. 26 Jul. 2016.)