Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando (c. 1578–1650)

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Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando (c. 1578–1650)

Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl was a historian of noble Amerindian descent from Texcoco, Mexico, whose work challenges the traditional dichotomy between conquered and conqueror. Prominent examples of the "Amerindian chronicle," Alva Ixtlilxochitl's numerous accounts narrate the history of his hometown from ancient times to the early sixteenth century, and portray the Aculhua (Chichimecs) from Texcoco as a great pre-Christian nation, whose evolution towards monotheism turned the 1519 Spanish invasion into a joyful encounter with the revealed Christian god.

Alva Ixtlilxochitl's most polished work, Historia de la nación chichimeca (History of the Chichimec Nation, c. 1625) narrates the history of Texcoco from its foundation to the Spanish conquest. Aculhuas are depicted as a nation experiencing a steady cultural development before contact with Europeans. They become sedentary, adopting prestigious cultural practices from other nations, such as Nahuatl language and customs from Toltec groups. An alleged parallel evolution towards monotheism occurs, embodied in the famous Texcocan king Nezahualcoyotl, a double of the biblical King David. This identification implies that Texcocans are equivalent to the Jewish people of the Old Testament. Thus, the Spanish conquest becomes the last step in this nation's development towards Christianity and civilization. The Historia creates a distinction between the "barbarous Mexicas" from Tenochtitlan and the nearly Christian Aculhuas, from which local Amerindian authorities and the author himself could benefit politically and economically in their relations with the Spanish colonial administration.

While it is true that Alva Ixtlilxochitl distorts the history of Texcoco, his works offer a wealth of information about a notable Mesoamerican group. Furthermore, these distortions may prove to be essential in determining how Amerindian intellectuals negotiated their place in colonial society. Alva Ixtlilxochitl's work is part of the emergence of historical accounts by non-European authors in New Spain after 1570, including Alvarado Tezozomoc, Chimalpahin, and Muñoz Camargo. Incorporating these authors' narratives into an understanding of Amerindian cultures is historically responsible, and also relevant to current discussions about Amerindian peoples' historical rights to land and within globalization processes.

See alsoAlvarado Tezozomoc, Hernando; Chimalpahin; Muñoz Camargo, Diego.


Adorno, Rolena. "Arms, Letters, and the Native Historian in Early Colonial Mexico." In Rediscovering Colonial Writing, edited by René Jara and Nicholas Spadaccini. Minneapolis, MN: Hispanic Issues, 1989.

Adorno, Rolena. "The Indigenous Ethnographer: The 'Indio Ladino' as Historian and Cultural Mediation." In Implicit Understandings: Observing, Reporting, and Reflecting on the Encounters Between Europeans and Other Peoples in the Early Modern Era, edited by Stuart B. Schwartz. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de. Obras históricas. 2 vols. Edited by Edmundo O'Gorman. Mexico D.F.: Universidad Autónoma de México, 1975–1977.

Velazco, Salvador. Visiones de Anáhuac. Reconstrucciones historiográficas y etnicidades emergentes en el México colonial: Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl, Diego Muñoz Camargo y Hernando Alvarado Tezozómoc. Guadalajara, Mexico: Universidad de Guadalajara, 2003.

                                     Juan JosÉ Daneri

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Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando (c. 1578–1650)

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