Durán, Diego (1537–1588)

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Durán, Diego (1537–1588)

Diego Durán (b. 1537; d. 1588), one of the more important chronicler/ethnographers who lived in sixteenth-century New Spain. A Dominican friar born in Seville and raised in Texcoco and Mexico City, Durán wrote a three-part work, Historia de las Indias de Nueva España islas de tierra firme, on the pre-Hispanic history, religion, and calendar of the Aztecs, respectively. He based it on indigenous manuscripts—including the Crónica X, now lost—and hundreds of indigenous informants. He also had some assistants, probably monastery-trained Nahuas, who helped him gather, copy, and interpret information, and he interviewed Spanish eyewitnesses who had been on the scene of the Conquest. The three parts of the Historia, containing many descriptions not duplicated in any other chronicles, were written approximately during the period 1576–1581. Durán's goal, like that of many chroniclers of his time, was to improve the Christian instruction of the indigenous people by first gaining a better grasp of their beliefs.

See alsoChristian Base Communities; Nahuas.


There is a more vivid and human biographical sketch of Durán in Fernando Horcasitas and Doris Heyden's English ed. of two parts of Durán's Historia, the Book of the Gods and Rites and The Ancient Calendar (1971). The third part, The Aztecs: The History of the Indies of New Spain (1964), was also translated by Horcasitas and Heyden. In the Handbook of Middle American Indians, vol. 13, pt. 2, edited by Howard F. Cline (1973), J. Benedict Warren explains the relationships between Durán's work and that of others who borrowed from him and/or consulted some of the same sources.

Additional Bibliography

Heyden, Doris. El templo mayor de Tenochtitlán en la obra de Fray Diego Durán. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2000.

                                       Stephanie Wood

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Durán, Diego (1537–1588)

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