The Aztecs at Independence
Nahua Culture Makers in Central Mexico, 1799–1832
The Aztecs at Independence offers the first internal ethnographic view of these central Mexican indigenous communities in the critical transitional time of Independence. Miriam Melton-Villanueva uses previously unknown Nahuatl-language sources—primarily last wills and testaments—to provide a comprehensive understanding of indigenous societies during the transition from colonial to postcolonial times. The book describes the cultural life of people now called Nahuas or Mexicas in the nineteenth century—based on their own words, their own written records. The book uses previously unknown, unstudied, and untranslated indigenous texts to bring Nahua society into history, fleshing out glimpses of daily life in the early nineteenth century. Thus, The Aztecs at Independence describes life at the most local level: Nahua lineages of ritual and writing, guilds and societies, the people that take turns administering festivals and attending to the last wishes of the dying.
Interwoven with personal stories and memory, The Aztecs at Independence invites a general audience along on a scholarly journey, where readers are asked to imagine Nahua concepts and their contemporary meanings that give light to modern problems.
“Astute observations about local Nahua society on the cusp of the colonial and independence periods.”—Kevin Terraciano, author of The Mixtecs of Colonial Oaxaca: Ñudzahui History, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries
“Melton-Villanueva fundamentally changes the field of Nahuatl studies with her discovery, transcription, translation, and painstaking analysis of more than 150 Nahuatl language testaments that ‘weren’t supposed to exist.’”—Kelly McDonough, author of The Learned Ones
“This carefully researched work shines much-needed light on a crucial period in the social history of Spanish America: the transition from late colonial times to the early republic in indigenous communities in central Mexico. Melton-Villanueva's important contribution comes in three parts: she illuminates the apprenticeship of indigenous notaries, reveals the substrate of Nahua authorial practices in Spanish-language wills, and documents the social and economic history of Nahua women. An eminently thoughtful work.”—David Tavárez, author of The Invisible War: Indigenous Devotions, Discipline, and Dissent in Colonial Mexico