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Inventory of the Tetepilco church.   Source: Photo: ©SC, INAH, BNAH /INAH

Codices of San Andrés Tetepilco Recovered in Mexican Church

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With proven authenticity that links them to the transition period between the 16th and 17th centuries, three pictographic documents called the Codices of San Andrés Tetepilco, among which one stands out that can be considered a continuation of the Pilgrimage Strip or Boturini Codex, have been recovered by the Mexican people.

At a press conference, held at the National Museum of Anthropology, the federal Ministry of Culture, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) announced the acquisition of these cultural assets, which are incorporated into the Collection of Mexican Codices of the National Library of Anthropology and History (BNAH).

The acquisition was described as a milestone, comparable to the authentication as pre-Hispanic of the Mayan Codex of Mexico (formerly Grolier) six years ago.

In this case, they are codices that preserve the Mesoamerican scriptural tradition and refer to the founding of San Andrés Tetepilco, as well as its entry into a new sociopolitical order, in the first decades of the viceroyalty.

Codex of the Foundation of Tetepilco. (©SC, INAH, BNAH/INAH)

Codex of the Foundation of Tetepilco. (©SC, INAH, BNAH/INAH)

These three documents are added to the 200 Mesoamerican codices – of the approximately 550 that are recognized in the world – in the custody of the BNAH, that since 1997 have been part of the Memory of the World, by the United Nations Educational Organization of Science and Culture.

From the Board of Trustees of INAH AC, the various sponsors were recognized, including people and companies committed to the conservation and preservation of Mexican cultural heritage, whose will allowed us to raise 9.5 million pesos (plus VAT) to obtain this documentary corpus, which remained for generations in the hands of a family, who asked to remain anonymous.

Thanks to this transfer of ownership, the people of Mexico now hold the Codices of San Andrés Tetepilco which, according to INAH researchers, are part of the so-called mixed codices, as they contain paintings from indigenous tradition and texts in Nahuatl or Spanish, written with the European alphabet.

Use of the European alphabet is found in the codexes. (©SC, INAH, BNAH  /INAH)

Use of the European alphabet is found in the codexes. (©SC, INAH, BNAH/INAH)

A Swallowed Town Spews its History

San Andrés Tetepilco is located in the southeast of Mexico City, although today it is lost in the urban area of the Iztapalapa municipality.

In the periods to which the three documents refer, it was under the jurisdiction of Iztacalco. These documents include the Map of the Founding of Tetepilco, the Inventory of the Church of San Andrés Tetepilco, and the Strip of Tetepilco.

Regarding the latter, it was indicated that, together with the Pilgrimage Strip or Boturini Codex, it contains approximately the same period contained in the Aubin Codex, which covers from 1064 to 1607.

Academics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) recalled that 15 years ago, at the invitation of the then chronicler of Azcapotzalco, they went to a private home in the Coyoacán municipality and saw the pictographs for the first time, using a monitor.

It wasn’t until two years ago that BNAH authorities were able to see them physically and manage a study to confirm their authenticity, which has involved the analysis of their composition, by experts from the UNAM Physics Institute and the Coordination National Conservation of Cultural Heritage of the INAH.

Preliminary examinations showed that they were made on amate paper, on which a layer of gesso, cochineal lacquer, inks obtained from plants and charcoal, and indigo, for the colors red, yellow ocher, black and blue, were applied.

The Tetepilco Strip, composed of 20 folded screen sheets, narrates the history of Tenochtitlan through four themes: the founding of the city, in 1300 (which implies a gap of 25 years); the record of the lords who governed it in pre-Hispanic times; the arrival of the Spanish, in 1519, and the viceregal period, until 1611.

The meeting is recorded, between 1427 and 1440, of the tlatoani Itzcóatl with the tlacatecatl or chief of his army, Moctezuma Ilhuicamina (later tlatoani), who had achieved the conquest of Tetepilco, whose lord, Huehuetzin, and his court of nobles appear rendering vassalage. In short, the message is to show the incorporation of Tetepilco into the history of Tenochtitlan.

Regarding the Map of the founding of Tetepilco, UNAM researchers explained that it contains historical-geographic information, including records, coinciding with real locations, of the place names of Culhuacan, Tetepilco, Tepanohuayan, Cohuatlinchan, Xaltocan and Azcapotzalc.

Top image: Inventory of the Tetepilco church.   Source: Photo: ©SC, INAH, BNAH /INAH

This article is a translated press release by the INAH, titled, ‘The INAH recovers the Codices of San Andrés Tetepilco’.

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