The recent translation and description of La memoria de don Melchor Caltzin, produced in 1543 and the earliest document written in the Tarascan (Purhépecha) language, opens an important window into the study of Tarascan historiography and state formation, which has generally been an understudied region of Mesoamerica. For too long, a more extensive document, the Relación de Michoacán, has dominated investigations of the Tarascan state, a late pre-Hispanic polity centered in West-Central Mexico, and wider Tarascan culture and history. I discuss how reading both documents in light of one another sheds light on the selective and ideologically skewed way in which they represent the past. While La memoria de don Melchor Caltzin focuses on a strict set of events to argue for the preservation of the rights of a Nahua community residing in the pre-Hispanic capital of Tzintzuntzan, it also sheds further light on the conspicuous silences in the Relación de Michoacán. Furthermore, the information contained in the Memoria indicates that an important stage in the development and consolidation of the state occurred thanks to an alliance between a king and foreign merchants. These data suggest that political consolidation was an ongoing process within the Tarascan state. The data indicating that merchants were key to this king's accession to power are indicative of a struggle to monopolize elite trade goods and lead to the discussion of the possibility that this struggle may also have been a factor in an earlier phase of state formation.
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Research Article| October 01 2013
David L. Haskell; Tarascan Historicity: Narrative Structure and the Production of the Past in the Case of the Two Tariacuris. Ethnohistory 1 October 2013; 60 (4): 637–662. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-2313858
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