Architectural fusion and indigenous ideology in early colonial Mexico: a case study of Teposcolula, Oaxaca, 1535-1580, demonstrating cultural transmission and transformation through negotiation and consent in planning a new urban environment

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Virginia Tech


This study demonstrates that by willingly entering a process of peaceful negotiation and consent the indigenous leadership of Teposcolula played a determining role in planning and building their new urbanization on the valley floor, relocating and resettling their community from its pre-Columbian mountain-top redoubt. The effect of changes in the total formal environment on the indigenous mental world is examined using a holistic approach suggested by the interpretation of Focillon and Kubler outlined in the Introduction. Chapter Two provides a highly compressed synthesis of what is known about pre-Columbian Mixtec culture. Chapters Three and Four examine early evangelization in Teposcolula in light of a letter from Domingo de Betanzos, considered here for the first time in English. A mystic tradition in the Dominican Order focused on Passion iconography and emphasizing mental prayer was transmitted into the New World, shaping the nature of the evangelization there. Dominican efforts to implant the practice of distinctly Christian forms of meditation and mental prayer by an architecturally transmitted iconographic program are shown. Architecture was used as a medium for ideological integration, by the friars in the use of the Rosary beads over the arches, and by the indigenous leaders in iconographic elements on the church, fusing and transforming pre-Columbian and Christian meaning. Chapter Five examines of the use of the disk frieze spanning over seven hundred years in pre-Columbian and early colonial architecture. This is the first study ever to explore and interpret the meaning of the disk frieze. The evidence presented supports the case for negotiation and consent in the early colonial period because the continued use of clearly pre-Columbian iconography was permitted. The symbolic use of disk frieze ornament flourished even in conventos built for friars. Chapter Six shows peaceful negotiation and consent in planning and constructing a new urbanization in Teposcolula designed to focus attention and prestige on the new ceremonial center, the capilla de Indios, and on the royal palace directly facing it in a clearly intended ceremonial and symbiotic relationship.



Urbanization, Architecture, Mixtecs