Enrique Florescano

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The Mexica Empire: memory, identity, and collectionism

Enrique Florescano
Conaculta, Mèxico

This text explores the historical, economic, political, military, geographical and cultural factors that lead to the consolidation of an unexplored aspect of ancient Mesoamerican cultures: the collectionism. The concept that guides this text has been explained by Jacques Le Goff and Paul Ricoeur summarized in the words of Alain Schnapp: “The foundation of memory is repetition: the capacity to reactivate a fading memory or rediscover a monument that erosion has disguised or nature overgrown.” That is to say; that memory, present through magnificent goods acquired as tributes, spoils and even offerings to the Gods has been considered part of the development formation of oral, visual, and written Mesoamerican memory. A solid example of this are the provided tributes and its amounts which prove that form of extracting wealth as one of the pillars that underpinned the power and imperial dimension of the Triple Alliance.

The meaning and value of Mesoamerican cultures changed dramatically with the Spanish invasion and conquest accomplished in 1521. From that date and subsequently, that perception was dominated by the Western mind that labeled the American peoples as “primitive”, “wild” and placed at a lower stage of civilization. Nonetheless, in Europe the interest in ancient history renewed between 1560 and the seventeenth century when several writers proposed a story that included various forms, divine, natural and human, that included all nations, not just classical antiquity but newly discovered New World traditions. The blending of these cultures contrasted in a queue of the general history of man.

In terms of the gathering of this vast collection of stories and narratives and comparative studies we now have a more comprehensive view of human diversity and the effort made by these communities to set standards or codes that keep the unity of language, kinship, family, identity, worship, community relations or dealings with the outside, while coping with the changes, transitions, ruptures and adaptations to the new. The study of these remote past testimonies provided us with a wealth of tools to detect, comprehend and explain languages, symbols, ceremonies, cults and beliefs that expanded the frontiers of knowledge. In the same way in which anthropological practice and theory widened methods of analysis delve into the structure and symbolism of myths, rituals, stories and chronicles, so historical research can now better understand the languages of the past and extensions in villages and modern and contemporary cultures.