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Durán, Diego


Dominican chronicler; b. Seville, Spain, 1537; d. Mexico, 1588. Little is known about Durán's life. He went to New Spain as a child and lived in Texcoco, where he learned Nahuatl. In May 1556 he entered the Order of Preachers in the monastery of St. Dominic, Mexico City. After serving some time in the Province of Oaxaca, he apparently returned to the Mexico City area. His chronicle was begun by 1574 and completed by 1581. Durán's title for the chronicle is not extant, but on the atlas is an inscription by a copyist: "Historia de las Indias de N. i islas y tierra firme." Even that was corrupted in a 19th-century publication to Historia de la Nueva España i Islas de Tierra Firme.

The Historia de las Indias is divided into three treatises: on the Mexican calendar (finished in 1579); on Mexican religious ideas and practices; and on the history of Mexico from its origins through the conquest. Although it was not printed in the 16th century, the Historia was referred to by Juan de Tovar in a letter (c. 158688) to José de acosta, and it was considered an excellent work by Agustín dÁvila y padilla. These fellow chroniclers were among the few who saw the MS before it was discovered in the National Library of Madrid in the 19th century. By 1880 most of the work had been published, but a complete critical edition still remains to be done. Durán based his history on pre-Hispanic pictographic MSS, particularly Crónica X. It bears great similarity to the works of Acosta and Tovar and is complementary to sahagÚn's Historia general. Durán had a more immediate knowledge of indigenous culture than most chroniclers, because of his childhood in Texcoco as well as his missionary work. He also had great sympathy for that culture and did not wish to destroy it. He did wish to Christianize it, and this, he said, was the reason for writing the history. He felt it imperative for the missionaries to understand the native religion if they were ever to be successful with evangelization.

Bibliography: d. durÁn, The Aztecs: The History of the Indies of New Spain, tr. d. heyden and f. horcasitas (New York 1964); Historia de las Indias de Nueva-España y islas de tierra firme, ed. j. fernÁndez ramÍrez, 2 v. and app. (Mexico City 186780).

[j. herrick]

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