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Alva Ixtlilxochitl's Native Archive and the Circulation of Knowledge in Colonial Mexico

Author(s): Amber Brian

Modern Language Association's Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize, Honorable Mention, 2016

Born between 1568 and 1580, Alva Ixtlilxochitl was a direct descendant of Ixtlilxochitl I and Ixtlilxochitl II, who had been rulers of Texcoco, one of the major city-states in pre-Conquest Mesoamerica. After a distinguished education and introduction into the life of the empire of New Spain in Mexico, Ixtlilxochitl was employed by the viceroy to write histories of the indigenous peoples in Mexico. Engaging with this history and delving deep into the resultant archives of this life's work, Amber Brian addresses the question of how knowledge and history came to be crafted in this era.

Brian takes the reader through not only the history of the archives itself, but explores how its inheritors played as crucial a role in shaping this indigenous history as the author. The archive helped inspire an emerging nationalism at a crucial juncture in Latin American history, as Creoles and indigenous peoples appropriated the history to give rise to a belief in Mexican exceptionalism. This belief, ultimately, shaped the modern state and impacted the course of history in the Americas. Without the work of Ixtlilxochitl, that history would look very different today.

Biography of Author(s)

Amber Brian is Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Iowa and coeditor of The Native Conquistador.


  • "Amber Brian has brought to light some extremely valuable information about two of our most important individuals in colonial Latin American history. The book will have a fine niche with the new New Conquest History, and will more generally be of great interest to ethnohistorians and scholars of intellectual history. But the work should have broader appeal as well, for scholars of modern Mexico and Latin America, and even politicians."
    --Susan Schroeder, coeditor of Religion in New Spain
  • "Amber Brian's book is truly excellent. Through a study of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, it illuminates the ways in which indigenous and mestizo intellectuals functioned in colonial Mexico, demonstrating how they interacted with others in their world and sometimes saw their ideas appropriated and transformed. The field has long needed a full-length and high-quality study of Ixtlilxochitl, so I predict it will be widely read by scholars."
    --Camilla Townsend, editor of Here In This Year: Seventeenth-Century Nahuatl Annals of the Tlaxcala-Puebla Valley