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The Tovar Codex, also referred to as the Relation of the Origin of the Indians, is a fundamental work in the understanding of the Aztec civilization. Composed by the Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar in the late sixteenth century, it consists of a total of 51 pages, and is divided into three distinct sections, each focused on a different aspect of Aztec life and culture.
Part one. Aztec New Year Ritual
The first section of Codex Tovar provides a detailed description of the Aztec New Year ritual, describing the complex ritual calendar, symbols, associated deities, and sacrifices and ceremonies that mark this important event. This part is crucial to understanding the annual cycle in the religious and social life of the Aztecs and offers insight into how time was understood and celebrated in their culture.
Second part. History of the Aztecs
The second section contains a narrative of the history of the Aztecs from their legendary migration from Aztlan to the Spanish conquest. It covers important episodes such as the founding of Tenochtitlan, relations with other Mesoamerican groups, wars, alliances, and events that led to its fall to the Spanish. This narrative is vital to understanding the historical and geopolitical evolution of the Aztec civilization.
Third part. Aztec religious and civil rituals
The third and final section of Codex Tovar describes in depth Aztec religious and civil rituals. It is not limited only to religious aspects, but also encompasses civic ceremonies, judicial practices, and other social rites. It offers an intimate look at the daily life, beliefs and practices that governed Aztec society at all levels.
Scrutiny and criticism
Despite its richness and detail, Codex Tovar has come under scrutiny for its possible bias and European influence on its interpretation of indigenous events and rituals. Some scholars argue that the author’s perspective and position within the colonial structure may have influenced the depiction of Aztec culture, leading to interpretations that reflect the European ideas and values of the time.
The Tovar Codex is an invaluable source for the study of Aztec history and culture. Through its pages, it offers a unique insight into a rich and complex civilization. While concerns about bias and interpretation are important, they do not diminish its value as a key historical document that remains essential to understanding pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
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