General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 27 Feb 2021/4 Dog
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Aztec/Mexica History Resources Listing by Gilbert Estrada

Aztecs/Mexica History Resources Listing 2021

We’re most grateful to Dr. Gilbert Estrada, Associate Professor of Latin America & United States History, Long Beach City College, California, for preparing and sharing this introductory reading list, aimed at a general readership. These things can never be 100% comprehensive, but this listing makes a great starting point, is full of classic works, and is up-to-date, for now...! You can download the resource below - look for the PDF icon. Both Professor Estrada and we have provided short introductions by way of a Preface...

‘Diego Rivera paved the way for many students...’
‘Diego Rivera paved the way for many students...’ (Click on image to enlarge)

Gilbert Estrada, USA
I’m a Mexican-American who grew up in Los Angeles, CA. I love Mexican antiquity, especially Mexica history. My first resource in Aztec Studies were Diego Rivera frescoes. I was in elementary school and still remember how I felt when I saw Aztec warriors, farmers, and engineers within books I checked out from the school library. I felt like I was home. Diego Rivera paved the way for many students, academics, and history fans of the Aztecs.
By high school I was exposed to the standard historiographical works. Bernal Diaz Del Castillo’s The True History of the Conquest of Mexico (1632) was by far the most influential. Even with its errors, it’s still a widely used work. I also got a hold of Hernan Cortes’ detailed and lengthy Letters from Mexico (1519).

‘By undergraduate studies I was assigned standard Mexica readings’
‘By undergraduate studies I was assigned standard Mexica readings’ (Click on image to enlarge)

By undergraduate studies I was assigned standard Mexica readings such as Miguel Leon-Portilla’s The Broken Spears (1959) – I still have the paper I wrote for class. William Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843) and Stuart Schwartz’s Victors and Vanquished (2000) were formidable works. David Carrasco’s Religions of Mesoamerica (1990) was crucial to my understanding of ancient Mexican belief systems - the updated version is phenomenal. Anna Lanyon Malinche’s Conquest (1999) was an important re-examination of the conquest. My mother was also in college and I ran through her collection. Mary Miller and Karl Taube’s An Illustrated Dictionary of Ancient Mexico and the Maya (1993) was a favorite because of the many illustrations. And although not Mexica, I marveled at the vibrant pages of the Codex Nuttall, the Codex Borgia, and the Codex Mendoza (1541). Everyone should read these.

Gilbert Estrada at the Templo Mayor archaeological site, Mexico City
Gilbert Estrada at the Templo Mayor archaeological site, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

By graduate school, Matthew Restall’s Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (2004) was assigned, but wasn’t nearly as paradigm shifting, or at least paradigm questioning, as his most recent work, When Montezuma Met Cortes (2018). I acquired a lot of background from Bernard Ortiz de Montellano’s Aztec Medicine, Health, and Nutrition (1990), Buddy Levy’s Conquistador (2008), and Carrasco’s The Aztecs: A Very Short Introduction (2011), which I have assigned in several courses. The latest craze is for Camilla Townsend Fifth Sun (2019), which has helped fill several historiographical gaps. The twitter account of the Templo Mayor Museum and the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) are probably my most frequent sources for Mexica updates; new discoveries are amazingly common and it’s great to see their resources, well produced videos, and countless lectures for free. The digital resources today are seemingly endless.

Mexicolore’s Director Graciela Sánchez hosting at the National Education Show, Birmingham, 2005
Mexicolore’s Director Graciela Sánchez hosting at the National Education Show, Birmingham, 2005 (Click on image to enlarge)

Mexicolore, UK
Prior to 1990, you could count accessible books on the Aztecs available to the interested reader in the United Kingdom literally on the fingers of one hand, and pretty well assign one per decade. First came G. C. Vaillant’s The Aztecs of Mexico (published in 1944 in the USA and 1950 in England by Penguin Books), then the English translation of Jacques Soustelle’s classic Daily Life of the Aztecs on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest (1961) followed closely by Michael Coe’s Mexico: from the Olmecs to the Aztecs in 1962 and in 1968 by Warwick Bray’s The Everyday Life of the Aztecs. The 1970s saw Nigel Davies’s The Aztecs (1973) and Cottie Burland’s The Aztecs: Gods and Fate in Ancient Mexico (1975). Finally the 1980s brought in Frances Berdan’s The Aztecs of Central Mexico: an Imperial Society (1982) (and a sumptuous special issue of National Geographic Magazine in December 1980). However it was only really in the 1990s that publications on the Aztecs began to take off, led in quick succession by Inga Clendinnen (Aztecs, 1991), Richard Townsend (The Aztecs, 1992), Karl Taube (Aztec and Maya Myths, 1993) and Michael Smith (The Aztecs, 1996). The rest, as they say, is history… But there’s one outstanding if little known early book that was published in English back in 1958 which we still consult today in our resource centre as it remains highly authoritative and a gem in its own right - the eminent Mexican archaeologist and historian Alfonso Caso’s The Aztecs: People of the Sun, beautifully illustrated by Miguel Covarrubias.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Feb 16th 2021


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