Arts of Colonial Mexico. He tells me that this is Neostyle, a transition between late Baroque and Neo-Classic. The bell above the balcony is a replica of the one at the town of Dolores Hidalgo that Father Miguel Hidalgo rang to summon the people to begin the War of Independence (1810 - 1821). Every September 15, as part of the Fiesta de Independencia, the Governor stands on the balcony, rings the bell, and delivers Hidalgo's speech to the crowd below.
Mudéjar-style architecture was eventually brought to the New World. The Palacio was originally constructed as a home for Hernán Cortez. From the colonial period through modern times, the building has been used for government offices. The Palacio has been destroyed and rebuilt several times due to floods, earthquakes, and fires.
Clovis point spearhead and the remains of plants and animals that they consumed in the caves where they took shelter. The environment at that time was cold and humid.
carbon-dated to 5,400 years ago. However, DNA tests indicate that maiz probably originated much earlier in Puebla, south of Tlaxcala. Cultivation of maiz created a surplus of storable food, but it also necessitated significant cultural changes, since agriculture requires a sedentary lifestyle.
Xochitécatl (800 BC - 300 BC) in southwest Tlaxcala. A couple of centuries later, Teotihuacán (100 BC - 650 AD) arose. Tecoaque was a Teotihuacán military and trading outpost located just inside modern Tlaxcala's western border on an ancient trade route from the Gulf Coast to the Valley of Mexico. After Teotihuacán's demise, a period of turmoil ensued during which a Maya-related group called the Olmeca-Xicalanca arrived from the Gulf Coast. They took over the area and established Cacaxtla (700 AD - 900 AD), as their capital. It was within sight of the ruins of Xochitécatl, already ancient at that time. Cacaxtla fell, in turn, to the expanding empire of the Toltecs (900 AD - 1150 AD). When the Toltec era ended in the 12th century, it was followed by yet another period of instability. Military conflicts flared among rising city states and Chichimec invaders arrived. The name is generic for various northern-desert tribes of fierce nomadic warriors who had been kept in check by the Toltecs and, before them, Teotihuacán. After the Toltec empire collapsed, waves of these invaders swept down, taking advantage of the turmoil.
commonly called the Aztecs. The two tribes not only arrived in their new homelands at about the same time, but they shared many cultural traits, including Nahuatl, their common language. They worshipped many of the same gods and shared a taste for warfare, conquest, and human sacrifice.
great murals of Cacaxtla display just such a titanic battle between the Eagle and Jaguar warrior cults. The combatants above are brandishing a fearsome hand weapon called a maquahuitl. It was a wooden club, the edges of which were lined with razor-sharp obsidian. Other weapons included the bow and arrow, the atlatl (a dart thrower), long spears, and slings that propelled stones with such force that they could endanger even a Spaniard in steel armor. For defense they used quilted armor and round wooden shields decorated with feathers. Warriors often clothed themselves in the skins of jaguars or other totem animals. Strapped to their backs were wood stakes adorned with bright feathers. In the heat of battle, these helped sort out friend from foe. In addition, the emblems enabled commanders to identify the battle lines so they could direct their forces.
bark from an amate tree with a special stone to separate and flatten the fibres. Because of work necessary to create it, paper was a very valuable commodity. Because it was light and easy for traders to transport, paper became an important trade good. It was used primarily by rulers, priests, and the nobility for records and religious tracts. On the right, workers gather and bundle agave leaves. These were used to produce fibre for sandals and ropes, among other things. The spines from the tips of agave leaves could be used as needles. The agave heart could be cooked and eaten and the juice from the heart could be processed into pulque, a mildly alcoholic drink still consumed in rural Mexico. Today, agave is most famous for the tequila which is made from it.
Backstrap looms are another very ancient technology that is still in use. Local women in my town can be found under the shade of a lakeside tree, using looms like these to make blankets and shawls for sale to tourists. On the right, men dye the cloth in a large pot. One of the most favored dyes used crushed cochineal insects gathered from the nopal cactus. It was produced exclusively in Oaxaca and was expensive because a large number of the tiny insects were needed to produce a small amount of dye. Aztec emperors demanded quotas of cochineal dye as tribute from the Zapotecs of Oaxaca. Today, cochineal is still used as a dye in food and lipstick.
pochteca, were not part of the nobility but were still of high status. They had their own powerful organizations and even their own gods. Pochteca sometimes acted as intelligence agents for their rulers when they visited city-states ripe for conquest.
use of plants and other natural materials for their medical needs. Pochteca knew that the injuries of a porter must be attended to because, given the absence of any large domesticated animals, human transport was the only kind available. Trade routes in pre-hispanic Mesoamerica were extensive, reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coasts and from Honduras to modern New Mexico. There is even evidence of trade between Peru and Western Mexico. Tlaxcala was well-positioned for trade since it lay on a route between the Gulf Coast and the Central Valley of Mexico.
Tlaxcala's pantheon of gods
invented the fire drill, seen above. To do it, he revolved the heavens around their axes. He was also the first to strike sparks from flint. The worship of the hunter-god Camaxtli, and his relationship to the invention of tools to create fire, harks back to archaic hunter-gatherer times. Fire was extremely important to archaic people. It provided warmth, lit the night, enabled the cooking of food, and could offer protection against predators. The ability to make fire was the first great invention in the long road to civilization. It thus became an important feature in most religious rituals and, in this case, had its own great ceremony, conducted at eight-year intervals.
teponaztli. This was an elaborately carved hollow log drum with slits through the top in the form of an elongated capital H. Often the instrument had a human face on one end, as well as other carvings on its sides. The teponaztli was considered an especially sacred drum. Xochiquetzalli was believed to be the mother of gods and, according to some tales, was the spouse of Camaxtli. She was associated with goodness and flowers and could intercede with more powerful gods to grant the wishes of those who appealed to her.
Quetzalcoatl, also known as the Plumed Serpent, had been worshipped throughout civilized Mesoamerica as far back as the Olmec times (1500 BC - 400 BC). It is likely that Chichimecs tribes like the Tlaxcalteca adopted Quetzalcoatl as they came into contact with civilized people and began to settle down. In fact, the myth of the Plumed Serpent asserted that he not only delivered maiz to humans, but taught them the arts of civilization, including writing.
This completes my first posting on the murals of the Palacio Gobierno. Next time, we'll look at murals showing the Tlaxcalteca's great rivalry with the Aztec empire and their eventual alliance with the Spanish during the Conquest. I hope you have enjoyed this posting. Please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below, or email me directly.
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