The God of War of the Aztec enemies: Camaxtli. A man wearing a yellow skin, conical hat, and three flags attached to his loincloth holds a shield with the five directions of space on it, a ceremonial staff, and a spear in the other hand. He stands in a mountainous landscape, a representation of the the Tlaxcala God of War.
The people of Tlaxcala, “Place of Maize Cakes,” were a rival tribe to the Aztecs. They, too, had been nomadic Chichimecs. Their god of war, Camaxtli, here shown wearing a human skin and a conical hat like the Aztec god, Quetzalcóatl, had promised that they would rule the world. The people of Tlaxcala, not as successful as the Aztecs, eventually allied themselves with the Spanish against their ancient enemies.
The Tovar manuscript (also known as the Ramírez Codex) consists of three main sections: an historical account of “the ancient Mexicans from their first migration into the central valley of Mexico, to their conquest by the Spaniards”; an illustrated history of the Aztecs (most images above); and the Tovar Calendar – an attempt to combine the Nahuatl calendar with christian Saint days. The manuscript dates to about 1585. Juan de Tovar (1543-1623) was born in Mexico from conquistador stock. He trained as a Jesuit priest and was known as the Mexican Cicero because of his eloquent preaching style and mastery of several indigenous languages.
At the request of the Spanish Court, Tovar set about preparing a pre-conquest ethnographic history of the Aztec peoples. He travelled widely, interviewing native Indians, from whom he also commissioned traditional pictographic sketches.
As Fray Bernardino de Sahagún observed: the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations." We explore the history and legacy of the Nahua and Maya civilizations, both of which challenge our preconceptions.