Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tlaxcala Part 7b of 11: Museo Regional's artifacts- Pre-Hispanic Post-Classic Era through Colonial times

Chac-Mools like this were used from the Toltec through the Aztec periods. A Chac-Mool is a carved and polished stone statue, thought to represent either a god or a warrior. The figure is always the same: a reclining male, with his head turned questioningly to one side, while his hands hold a bowl on his stomach. Ritual offerings were placed in the bowl, including human hearts freshly cut from the living chests of sacrifice victims. It has been dated to the period between 1250-1519 AD, i.e. the end of the Toltec era through the rise of the Aztec Empire and arrival of the Spanish. The statue was found at Hacienda Mixco in Teacalco, Tlaxcala. Chac-Mools have also been found at Tula, the Toltec capital in the state of Hidalgo, and at Chichen Itza in the Maya territory of Yucatan. Another stands in front of the temple dedicated to Tlaloc, the Rain God, atop the Templo Mayor pyramid in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán. Although they were bitter enemies, the Tlaxcaltecas and the Aztecs shared many of the same gods and ritual practices, including Tlaloc and a taste for human sacrifice.

In this posting, we'll take a look at some of the Museo Regional's artifacts from the Post-Classic through the early Colonial Eras.

The Post Classic Era

And, speaking of Tlaloc... God of water, rain, lightning and governor of eight of the thirteen levels of heaven. He wears the "goggles" typical of representations of Tlaloc. Another interesting aspect of this statue is its rather phallic appearance, which may be related to agricultural fertility. Worship of a deity related to rain is probably as old as the practice of agriculture. The only god who may be older is the Fire God, known in the Post-Classic era as Huehueteotl, the "Old, old god". The statue was created somewhere between 1250-1519 AD. Tlaloc was believed to reside in the mountains where the clouds gather. Sacrificial offerings on the altars located there often included children.

Chalchihuitlicue was goddess of vegetation, particularly maiz, and patroness of young women. She was Tlaloc's consort, a nice match since the plant world needs water. Chalchihuitlicue was worshipped not only by the Tlaxcaltecas, but by many of the other Post-Classic cultures.

Ehecatl, the Wind God, is another very ancient deity. He was closely associated with Tlaloc, because the wind pushes the clouds and rain. Ehecatl always wears a strange, artificial beak. Another of his unique features is the circular shape of his temples. The temples bases of other pre-hispanic gods are square or rectangular, with the four sides oriented to the sacred, cardinal directions. Since the wind can come from any direction, Ehecatl's temples have no corners. In fact, they often had spiral shapes, perhaps to imitate a whirlwind. A very early example can be found at Xochitécatl, in western Tlaxcala, built sometime between 700-300 BC. Another example, from the Post-Classic Era, stands at Calixtlahuaca, west of Mexico City. Ehecatl was also closely associated with Quetzalcoatl (the Plumed Serpent) who, along with Tlaloc, was one of the Creator Gods..

Processional figure, used in religious rituals relating to war and the gods. Groups of figures like this helped support group cohesion by transmitting tribal history, cosmology, and religion. This figure was one of a set found at Tizatlan, in the present-day capital city of Tlaxcala. It was one of the four federated altepetls (city-states) that formed what the Spanish called the Republica de Tlaxcala.

Post-Classic "host" figurilla with child. This rather cheerful looking figurilla carries a child on her arm who wears an identical grin. The figurilla is hollow, with a removable plate on the chest. The figure inside is dressed in a loincloth and necklace and may represent the divine essence residing in each person. Figurillas like this are especially interesting because they show how the people dressed and adorned themselves at a particular time. This craftsmanship of this figurilla is of lower quality than that of similar Classic-Era figurillas found at Teotihuacan.

Beautifully painted tri-pod bowl. The decorations appear to be abstract, but some may represent snakes and birds. This would have graced the table of a high-status individual. It may have been imported or it might be an heirloom from an earlier era.

Funerary vase with glyphs. The vase was found at Ocotelulco, another of Tlaxcala's four altepetls. A vase like this is usually found in an intact tomb. Otherwise, it would have been unlikely to survive centuries of turmoil and conflict.

Two-handled pot, undecorated. This utilitarian piece might have been used in the kitchen of either a noble or a commoner. A wide variety of pre-hispanic ceramic styles have been found in Tlaxcala. One explanation of this diversity is that the area was dominated by many different cultures and civilizations over the millennia. Another factor was the network of trade routes criss-crossing the area.

Donut-shaped ceramic vase, decorated with glyphs. This is one of the most interesting ceramic pieces I have ever encountered in Mexico. It is in the shape of a thick donut, with a an opening on one side. I am left puzzled as to how this piece would have been used, and for what purpose.

The Spanish Conquest

16th century steel armor and halberd used by Spanish conquistadors. For millennia, metal armor had been used by the soldiers of Europe and elsewhere in the Old World. By the 16th century, it had reached the peak of its craftsmanship and effectiveness. However, firearms were introduced in the 15th century. Over the following centuries, improvements in the power, reliability, and rate of fire of guns gradually made armor obsolete on European battlefields. However, it continued to serve well in the New World against the flint and obsidian weapons employed by indigenous warriors. The halberd was a pole weapon, used primarily by foot soldiers. This one has a spearpoint, but it also carries a hook used to jerk mounted knights from their horses. Notice the small studs that spiral up the length of the pole. These helped a soldier keep his grip, even when the shaft was slick with sweat and blood. Armor and weapons made of steel, along with horses and firearms, were important factors in defeating the indigenous forces that opposed the Spanish Conquest. However, the Spanish could never have succeeded without the assistance of thousands of Tlaxcalteca warriors, armed with obsidian weapons, wicker shields, and cotton armor.

The Lienzo de Tlaxcala is a remarkable document, painted on cloth by native scribes. It is a pictorial record--from an indigenous point of view--of Tlaxcala's governing structure and the history of the Conquest. The Lienzo was created by indigenous scribes using a mixture of traditional and Spanish techniques. Unfortunately, the original has been lost, but the copy above was recreated in the 19th century using lithographs taken of the original. The full Lienzo was 3m wide and 5m long (9.8 ft x 16.4 ft). The top portion, seen above, shows the Republica de Tlaxcala's governing structure. The much longer bottom portion, not shown above, is composed of 91 small panels (7 across in 13 rows) showing scenes from the Conquest.

Detail from the top portion of the Lienzo showing Xicoténcatl, one of the Four Lords of Tlaxcala. The other three Lords are also depicted, along with the names and small profiles of their key supporters. Two of those can be seen in the upper left. Xicoténcatl is draped with an embroidered cape and wears a magnificent headdress. He also wears Spanish-style pantaloons, an example of the Lienzo's mix of styles.

La Malinche (center) interprets between Cortéz and a native caciqueAtlivetzian, the word in the upper left, represents the place where the event occurred. It is a Nahuatl word, rendered in Spanish script. The objects in the lower left, below the cacique (chief), represent supplies desperately needed by the Spanish as they marched on Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital. Local groups like this were hoping to throw off Aztec domination. They achieved their wish, but exchanged Aztec rule for that of the Spanish, with disastrous consequences. La Malinche was a Maya woman given as a gift to Cortéz when he visited Yucatan on the way to conquer the Aztecs. She became his mistress, but also played a critical role in the Conquest as Cortéz' interpreter and adviser. As well as her native Maya dialect, she spoke Nahuatl, the language of most of the cultures in Central Mexico, including the Tlaxcaltecas and the Aztecs. La Malinche was viewed as a heroine during the colonial period and the first 100 years of the Mexican Republic. However, since the Revolution, appreciation of Mexico's pre-hispanic heritage has grown. She is now viewed by many as a traitor who collaborated in the ruin of the native civilizations of Mesoamerica. This is probably unfair, since she was, after all, a slave.

The Four Lords, under the coat-of-arms granted to Tlaxcala by the Spanish King. They wear Spanish crowns adorned by indigenous feathers. Under their native capes are Spanish doublets and pantaloons. The artist here was undoubtedly Spanish, or a mestizo trained in Spanish techniques. He saw the Lords through Spanish eyes rather than through the eyes of the indigenous creators of the Lienzo. The King's coat-of-arms was not just a meaningless symbol. Achieving it meant that Tlaxcala was directly accountable to the King, rather than to his subordinate officials in New Spain. This was the reward for Tlaxcala's loyal service during the Conquest. It also helped that Tlaxcala sent 400 native families to help colonize the wild northern wastes of New Spain. There, they acted as a buffer against the fierce Chichimecas. Those nomadic warriors had, for millennia, plagued the Aztecs and other pre-hispanic civilizations. Tlaxcala's native leadership struggled to maintain their political and cultural autonomy throughout the colonial period and were successful to a considerable extent.

The Colonial Era

St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order of evangelizing friars.  This anonymous 18th century oil painting depicts San Francisco in a simple friar's habit. Franciscans, at least in the early days, were renowned for their adherence to the principles of simplicity and poverty. The Conquest was still underway in 1524 when the first twelve Franciscans arrived. They had the evangelization field to themselves for the first few years, until the Dominicans, Augustinians, and other Orders arrived. Several of the newly arrived Franciscans set up operations in Tlaxcala. While the conquistadors carried out the military conquest, the Franciscans engaged in what some have called a spiritual conquest. In addition to conducting mass conversions, they smashed indigenous religious statues and other symbols of "devil worship". Pre-hispanic temples were demolished and new churches built from the rubble. However, the friars also strove to protect the native people from corruption and abuse by the conquistadors. This put the Franciscans and other evangelizing orders in direct conflict with the interests of the conquistadors and other Spaniards. These adventurers and opportunists often enslaved the natives, raped their women, seized their lands, and tortured anyone who might lead them to sources of gold or silver.

Spanish bridle, typical of those used on haciendas established throughout Tlaxcala. The Crown wanted to encourage the production of food and other goods for the burgeoning gold and silver mines, as well as for newly established towns and cities. As a result, the authorities began to award small land grants, called mercedes, to conquistadors. This was intended to reward them for their service, and to provide them with gainful employment as farmers. However, it was also to keep them out of trouble, since unemployed ex-soldiers often became involved in adventurism and intrigues. As time went on, other on-the-make Spaniards began to arrive. They, too, were awarded mercedes, particularly if they had family or political connections. Due to Tlaxcala's autonomy and the efforts of the Franciscans, Tlaxcaltecas had a degree of protection from land-hungry Spaniards, unlike other native groups. However, from the earliest days of the Conquest, the indigenous population of Tlaxcala was ravaged by European diseases. Between the early 16th century and the middle of the 17th, the native population of Tlaxcala crashed by 90%. Similar dramatic declines occurred throughout New Spain. This opened vast areas to Spanish settlement, resulting in a land rush. Although the Crown had established regulations intended to inhibit the development of huge estates, the genie was out of the bottle. Nearly everyone in the Spanish community was involved in the frenzy, including corrupt public officials and churchmen. The accumulation of large land holdings, often at the expense of the native population, continued for the next 400 years. Thus were born Mexico's famous haciendas.

Ornate chair belonging to Viceroy Juan de Palafox y Mendoza. It soon became clear to the Spanish Crown that they couldn't leave New Spain in the hands of conquistadors like Hernán Cortéz. He was at heart an adventurer, not an administrator. Even his invasion of the Aztec Empire had been an act of insubordination, forgivable only because of his success. Soon, the Crown established the Audiencia, an administrative court, and then appointed the first Viceroy. The early Viceroys were men of ability and energy. They worked hard to establish a framework to govern the far-flung lands and millions of new subjects that Spain had so swiftly acquired. As a direct representative of the King, the Viceroy's job was to help develop the new colony and to combat Chichimec incursions and indigenous rebellions. He also had to reconcile the interests of the Crown, the Church, the merchant class, the hacienda owners, and the indigenous people. I list the native people last because their interests usually came last. However, the early Viceroys attempted to rectify the worst abuses against them and established regulations to prevent similar occurrences. Juan de Palafox y Mendoza (1600-1659) was a churchman who was Bishop of the Diocese of Tlaxcala and Archbishop of Mexico before he became Viceroy. As Tlaxcala's Bishop, he got into a fierce conflict with the Jesuits, who were independent of his authority. Their Order owned large haciendas in Tlaxcala and elsewhere, and they refused to pay Tlaxcala's Diocese the 10% tithe that supported the secular Church and its charitable institutions. Although Palafox lost this battle, his writings against the Jesuits were used more than a century later to justify their expulsion from New Spain and all other Spanish possessions. In addition to his church duties, Palafox held public office as Visitador (a sort of Inspector General). In this position, he charged the incumbent Viceroy with treason and corruption and had him arrested and deported to Spain. Palafox became interim Viceroy between June and November of 1642. He was the only man to ever hold the positions of Archbishop of Mexico and Viceroy simultaneously. One of his most important acts as Archbishop was to take the responsibility for evangelism away from the religious orders and give it to the secular clergy, who were responsible directly to the Bishops.

This stone lion, dated 1629, probably stood guard at a gate or grand stairway. If the 16th century was the era of Conquest, the 17th was one of consolidation. Huge tracts of land in Tlaxcala and elsewhere had come into the possession of Spaniards who had only the most tenuous legal claim to it. A lot of it was indigenous land which had belonged to villages that had been emptied by epidemics. Some of it was blatantly seized over the protests of its rightful, living, native owners. Other parts were Crown lands which had been given away by corrupt officials. The Crown had established strict rules governing the use of land granted through mercedes, but these were regularly flouted. For example, land granted for the purpose of raising crops was often turned into pasture for cattle or sheep. The epidemics had caused labor shortages in Tlaxcala (in fact, all over New Spain). Herding livestock required fewer workers than growing crops. However, this resulted in too little grain and too much meat. Land ownership was such an administrative mess that the Crown decided to establish a system by which titles to land could be legitimated. The fees charged by the Crown to do this fattened the treasury and title legitimization allowed the Crown to collect taxes more easily. By the end of the 17th century, the hacienda system was well-established and on reasonably solid legal ground. However, land in Tlaxcala and throughout New Spain was increasingly held in fewer and fewer hands.

This statue of Spanish King Carlos III originally stood in the Capilla Real de Indios. The Royal Chapel of the Indians is located on the west side of Plaza de la Constitución (see Part 1 of this series). The chapel was built so that indigenous people would have a place to worship separate from their Spanish overlords. The statue shows Carlos III (1716-1788) in military garb. It was a way to impress the natives with his power and authority. King Carlos was part of the new Bourbon Dynasty that took power in Spain in 1700. He ruled at a time when absolute monarchy was taking hold all over Europe. Carlos viewed the independence of the Jesuit Order as a threat to his rule and, in 1767, he banished the Order from Spain and all its possessions. While Carlos was definitely an absolutist, he is also recognized by historians as a relatively enlightened man who was the most effective ruler of his time. He instituted a wide range of reforms and improvements beneficial to Spain. However, many of his reforms relating to colonial matters were disliked and covertly resisted in New Spain. Criollos (Spaniards born in the colonies) viewed these changes as a way of gradually chipping away at local autonomy and colonial rights. Ultimately, Carlos' colonial reforms became one of the fundamental causes of Mexico's War of Independence (1810-1821).

This completes Part 7b of my Tlaxcala series. I hope you have enjoyed it and, if so, please leave any comments or questions in the Comments section below, or email me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim

No comments:

Post a Comment

If your comment involves a question, please leave your email address so I can answer you. Thanks, Jim