In an unusual style inspired by the mid-twentieth-century Erich Auerbach tome Mimesis, this work reproduces sizable sections of a variety of primary sources in translation (the originals almost exclusively are in Nahuatl) and places them in historical context to highlight the mechanisms employed by Nahuas to preserve their history and identity under colonialism. Townsend’s effort highlights the appeal and persuasiveness of good storytelling and narrative, but as is characteristic of her other work, undergirding the highly accessible volume is deep research and insight into the Nahuas. The audience seems to be a general readership—the introduction explains in detail things that should be apparent to experts—but all readers will appreciate her interpretations of the Nahua past through the Nahuas’ own histories.

Townsend focuses on Native annals, mostly in European script rather than painted manuscripts, produced in Nahuatl in the sixteenth and seventeenth...

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