Published: Вт, Ноября 21, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

BENSON FACULTY BLOG - Tereza Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin

BENSON FACULTY BLOG - Tereza Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin

The Geographical Relations

One of the main attractions of the Rare Books Collection at the Benson is a group of late sixteenth-century Rare manuscripts and maps known as the Geographical Relations (or RGs for short). As described in the Benson's web portal to the RGs, these manuscripts are responses to a fifty-question survey by the Spanish Crown in 1577. The survey requested information about Spanish-held territories in the Americas. Many of the questions focused on the population, cultural practices, physical terrain, vegetation, and other material resources. The Benson holds 43 of the 167 extant responses and accompanying maps (the rest are in archives in Spain). Scholars travel from around the world to Austin every year to work with the RG maps. Recently, however, one of the RG maps did some traveling of its own. On October 5, 2015, as part of a tribute to Mexican Indigenous Studies scholar Dorothy Tanck of Estrada at the Teatro de la Ciudad in Puebla, Mexico, I had the honor of presenting a beautiful reproduction of the 1581 RG map of Cholula to eighteen traditional Indigenous authorities (fiscales and butlers) of San Pedro and San Andrés Cholula. The theater was standing room only - more than 200 attendees witnessed this return of historical memory to the people of Cholula.

The resulting maps were for the most part drawn and / or painted by anonymous indigenous men, providing rare insight into indigenous perspectives of cultures in contact during the first century of colonization in Mexico (for more information and to see several of the digitized RG maps, click here)

Kelly McDonough presents a reproduction of the Geographic Relations map of Cholula to traditional indigenous authorities of Cholula in Puebla, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Miguel Ángel Ruz-Barrio

One of the things I like most about my research is that I do not just study indigenous sources from Mexico, but I try to ensure that indigenous Peoples have access to these sources as well. Since coming to UT Austin in 2012 it has been a goal of mine to return a reproduction of each of the 43 RG maps to their communities of origin. Knowing that I would be in Cholula for a conference this fall, I asked Julianne Gilland, the Director of the Benson Latin American Collection, if we could begin with the map of Cholula. She enthusiastically agreed and swiftly oversaw the beautiful reproduction and framing of the map. Gilland also wrote a generous letter in Spanish on behalf of the Benson. Her letter, also signed by the men and women who received the map with great reverence and emotion, is being translated into English and Nahuatl as well, and will soon hang framed next to the map of the House of Culture in Cholula. >

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Geographical relations map of Cholula 1581.

The Convent of San Gabriel presides in the center of the map, illustrating Spanish dominance in the region. In the upper right hand corner, however, we see the depiction of a mountain with grasses and reeds: Tollancholula, the tlachihualtepetl or man-made hill, the largest pyramid in the Americas. The mountain spills into the quadrant to its immediate left, and is connected to a snaking shape used in indigenous painting to represent water. This association between water and the pyramid evokes the Nahuatl term for a socio-political unit: altepetl , literally water-mountain (atl-tepetl). With this in mind, even though it is not physically represented at the center of the map of Cholula, the great pyramid is the most important on this map in that it signals this socio-political unity, or the peoplehood of Cholutecas.

This reminder of the unity and interdependence of the major neighborhoods comes at an important time in Cholula's history. As we speak, state and local government officials in Puebla have begun the desecration and destruction of the pyramid platform of Cholula to make way for tourist attractions and commercial development.

Two Cholultecas, father and son were Paul Xicale Coyopolis and Adán Xicale, have been imprisoned for (Read more about the Xicale cases here; see a twenty-minute documentary dealing with the destruction of the archeological site of Cholula here). While the courts have temporarily halted construction, on a visit to Cholula in August of 2015 I saw trucks delivering ready-mixed concrete to the base of the pyramid.

Kelly McDonough
Assistant Professor
Department of Spanish & Portuguese

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position and views of LLILAS BENSON Latin American Studies and Collections. / H6>

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