An old and emaciated man holds a banner decorated with blue stripes and pennants. He wears a necklace of blue beads with gold pendants. Above the man’s head is a goat. The text describes the month as being one in which the war captains celebrated.
This month, identified as December with the astrological symbol of capricorn, is called Banner raising. This month was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war. The blue color may be associated with this god whose name means “Blue hummingbird on the left.”
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.