Alvarado Tezozomoc, Don Hernando (c. 1525–c. 1610)

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Alvarado Tezozomoc, Don Hernando (c. 1525–c. 1610)

This historian from Mexico-Tenochtitlan, commonly known as Tezozomoc, wrote two narratives on pre-conquest Mexico. His works, published during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are important sources on the history of Tenochtitlan, the most important center of the so-called Aztec Empire. Tezozomoc was a grandson of Motecuzoma Xocoyotl, tlatoani (ruler) of Tenochtitlan (c. 1502–1520), and son of don Diego de Alvarado Huanitzin, tlatoani of Ecatepec (1520–1539) and later governor of Tenochtitlan (1539–1542). He served as a nahuatlato, or Nahuatl interpreter, under the viceroy don Gaspar de Zúñiga y Acevedo (1595–1603). Although no sources exist that document Tezozomoc's formal education, his scholarly knowledge is patent in his Cronica Mexicana (c. 1598), written in Spanish. Composed of 112 chapters—two are lost—this narrative, in the format of a European chronicle, focuses on the rise and fall of Tenochtitlan. It creates a hybrid genre in which alphabetic writing is used to transcribe oral and pictographic ancient accounts. An ambivalent discourse of admiration and abjection emerges, as a result of narrating native practices that at times conflict with Christian principles.

A second narrative attributed to Tezozomoc is the so-called Cronica Mexicayotl (1609), written in Nahuatl, in a preconquest format known as annals. This format, distinct from the European format of same name, was used mainly by native historians and focused on chronological events of quotidian as well as of remarkable character. The Cronica Mexicayotl contains an imperial history of the Mexica Empire and a genealogical history of its rulers. In the introduction Tezozomoc expresses his role as keeper and transmitter of the ancient Mexica word, a privilege the Mexica wise men granted him because of his lineage. The earliest manuscript of the Cronica Mexicayotl is a holograph also signed by the indigenous historian from Chalco-Amaquemecan, don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, known as Chimalpahin.

Manuscripts of the narratives by Tezozomoc and his native and mestizo (Spanish-Indian) contemporaries were donated to the Mexican criollo (American-born Spanish) erudite Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora and later served as a source for criollo intellectuals in their production of a Mexican historiography during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These texts are important sources for critical investigations in different areas of research, from linguistics to the social sciences, cultural studies, and postcolonial studies. Written after the conquest under an alien political and ideological hegemony, these narratives provide insight into the processes of meaning-making and representation.

See alsoColonialism; Tenochtitlán; Aztecs; Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando; Chimalpahin; Muñoz Camargo, Diego; Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos de.


Garibay, Miguel Angel. Historia de la literatura náhuatl. 2 vols. México: Porrúa, 1954.

Lockhart, James. The Nahuas after the Conquest. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992.

Editions of Works by Alvarado Tezozomoc

Crónica mexicana. Edited by Manuel Orozco y Berra. 4th edition. Mexico City: Porrúa, [1878] 1987.

Crónica mexicana. Edited by Mario Mariscal. 2nd edition. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, [1943] 1994.

Crónica mexicana. Edited by Gonzalo Díaz Migoyo and Germán Vázquez. Las Rozas, Madrid: Dastin, 2001.

Crónica mexicayotl. Translated by Adrián León. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, [1949], 1975, 1998.

Cronica mexicayotl: Codex Chimalpahin. Vol. 1. Translated by Susan Schroeder and J. O Anderson. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.

                                        RocÍo CortÉs

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Alvarado Tezozomoc, Don Hernando (c. 1525–c. 1610)

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