The Aztecs at Independence: Nahua Culture Makers in Central Mexico, 1799–1832 consists of six chapters mainly devoted to studying the rhetoric of death in four altepeme (indigenous towns; singular, altepetl) in the Metepec region of the Valley of Toluca in early nineteenth-century Mexico. Miriam Melton-Villanueva analyzes more than 150 wills written in the Nahuatl and Spanish languages by indigenous notaries (escribanos) from San Bartolomé, Ocotitlan, Yancuictlalpan, and Totocuitlapilco. This set of wills, which the author calls “the Independence archive,” is located in the former convent of San Juan Bautista, in the current city of Metepec. Instead of merely comparing the similarities and differences between the wills and the aforementioned altepeme, Melton-Villanueva contextualizes them within the regional tendencies of written culture through an assessment of similar eighteenth-century sources from the Archivo de Notarías de Toluca.

According to Melton-Villanueva, the escribanos...

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