Renæssanceforum 10 • 2016

Andrew Laird
Nahua Humanism and Political Identity in Sixteenth-Century Mexico: A Latin letter from Antonio CortÚs Totoquihuatzin, native ruler of Tlacopan, to Emperor Charles V (1552)

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Antonio Cortés Totoquihuatzin made several requests for alleviation of the tribute due from Tlacopan to the town's encomenderos Isabel de Montezuma and the conquistador Juan Cano. In a Latin letter, transcribed and translated below, Don Antonio explained Tlacopan's importance in pre-Hispanic Mexico and described how his father had welcomed Hernán Cortés, allying his people with the Spaniards against the Aztecs – a version of events which diverges from other accounts, including Hernán Cortés' own. The following discussion examines the letter's rhetorical strategies in relation to its historical context, shows how the writer's humanist learning accommodated European and Mexican traditions, and considers why petitions like this were sometimes made in Latin.