The exhumation, in 1895, of the manuscript known as Cantares mexicanos y otros opúsculos in the Biblioteca Nacional de México made available for the first time authentic examples of sixteenth-century Nahua song (cuicatl). This article traces the history of the rediscovery of this manuscript and, more broadly, the history of the literary recuperation—through editing, translation, and study—of Nahua verbal art during the nineteenth century. By studying earlier unsuccessful attempts at incorporating the Cantares mexicanos into the emerging canon of Mexican literature, the article reconstructs the changing epistemic conditions and disciplinary realignments between Mexico and the United States that eventually made the 1895 exhumation possible. The Porfirian encounter with the Cantares not only made Nahua song available for an international audience but also established a paradigm of literary interpretation that continues to shape our understanding of this form of Indigenous verbal art to this day.

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