José Rabasa uses Codex Telleriano-Remensis folio 46r as a starting point for an exploration of the encounters that marked the early colonial period in New Spain and the debates these encounters sparked in Spain at the same time. He is interested in how indigenous intellectuals challenged the European ethnographic project into which they had been brought and compelled to participate. These ethnographies were carried out in highly charged political and religious contexts, but they were not one-sided. Both Europeans and Nahuas tried to understand each other, and in the process, Rabasa argues, both cultures were changed.

Codex Telleriano-Remensis was commissioned by Dominican friars seeking to learn about Nahua culture. Its content is both religious and historical, with information recorded pictorially by a native tlacuilo, the Nahuatl term for a painter-scribe. Space was left for alphabetic annotations that provide readings and commentary on...

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