Benjamin D. Johnson’s work centers the heretofore overlooked tlaxilacalli as the object of study over the course of four centuries of momentous change and transformation, revealing the dynamism with which tlaxilacalli responded to broader imperial transformations during the Aztec and early colonial eras. His argument complicates our thinking about the nature of tlaxilacalli, traditionally glossed as geographically bounded barrios, or neighborhoods, in contemporary Spanish documentation but, in his estimation, far more appropriately seen as complex networks knitting together locality, kin, and obligation, both economic and spiritual. Tlaxilacalli were, in his words “face-to-face human networks” (3) that formed the “bedrock of empire. When they shifted,” he argues, “the entire [imperial] arrangement shook” (4).

Johnson structures his treatment to highlight tlaxilacalli flexibility and responsiveness to local conditions and struggles and attempted imperial impositions. His narrative progresses chronologically while managing at the same time...

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