Druzo Maldonado Jiménez, Deidades y espacio ritual en Cuauhnáhuac y Huaxtepec. Tlalhuicas y xochimilcas de Morelos (siglos XII-XVI), [Deities and ritual space in Cuauhnáhuac and Huaxtepec. Tlalhuica and Xochimilca of Morelos (XII-XVI centuries] Mexico, UNAM-IIA, 2000, 267 pp.


This book is the result of the author’s concern to extend the study of the main groups that in pre-Hispanic times, particularly immediately before the Conquest, inhabited most of the territory which nowadays conforms the state of Morelos. In this sense, it is a continuation of the study offered by Maldonado in his book: Cuauhnáhuac y Huaxtepec (tlalhuicas y xochimilcas en el Morelos prehispánico), [Cuauhnáhuac and Huaxtepec (Tlalhuicas and Xochimilca in pre-Hispanic Morelos], published in 1990 by the Centro Regional de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias [Regional Center of Multidisciplinary Research] of the UNAM. In fact, it is another result which was originally presented as a master degree thesis at the ENAH, of the research performed in said school at the workshop of Social Organization and pre-Hispanic Weltanschauung, instituted and directed by Doctor Johanna Broda.

Maldonado’s study is based on archaeological and cartographic ethnohistorical information (pictographic and documentary sources), combined with the results obtained from various field trips and information from ethnographic work.

It is a regional study -from my point of view, an ethnohistorical study- on the general characteristics of pre-Hispanic weltanschauung and religion (basically of the moment prior to the Conquest) of the Tlalhuica and Xochimilca settled in the current state of Morelos, taking as a point of reference and comparison the Tenochca Empire.

The conceptual frame is based on Johanna Broda’s works; for the characterization of the Mexica pantheon, the author takes Henry Nicholson’s classification as a base and, as shown by the critical apparatus and by the bibliography, he resorts almost exhaustively to modern authors who have dealt with the studied issues, apart from resorting to the sources.

According to the themes developed in the four chapters that constitute the volume (preceded by a presentation by Johanna Broda and an introduction by the author, and followed by the conclusion section and one appendix), two basic aspects are offered. One of historical character studied in the first chapter, and a second one of a religious nature which gives this research its title, and which is the main topic of chapters II, III and IV, directed towards the reconstruction of the cult to the deities venerated in the provinces of Cuauhnáhuac and Huaxtepec in the studied period.

Chapter I, “Historia política de los grupos nahuas tlalhuicas y xochimilcas (siglos XII-XVI)” [Political history of the Tlalhuica and Xochimilca Nahua groups (XII-XVI centuries), offers a general view of the political-territorial structure of pre-Hispanic settlements inhabited by the aforementioned groups in current Morelos territory. As to the time period, it goes from migrations to the beginning of the Conquest. It is a wide period where we clearly see two stages:

a) The one going from 1200 to 1437 related to migrations, settlements and what we might call the period of “independent lordships”, because even if during the Tepaneca predominance (1376-1427) there were attempts to dominate the Tlalhuic region by the part of the Tenochcas (under the control of Azcapotzalco), they were restricted to the relationships that emerged from the matrimonial alliance between Huitzilíhuitl of Tenochtitlan and Miahuaxíhuitl, daughter of Ozomatzin Teuctli (or Tezcacohuatzin), tlatoani tlalhuica of Cuauhnáhuac. This, in any case, caused the access of the Mexicas to the desired products of the “hot land”.

b) The second stage (1438-1519) deals with the incorporation of the lordships mentioned above to the imperial domain, which happened in the first case during the control of Itzcóatl (1427-1440) and in the second during that of Moctezuma Ilhuicamina (1440-1469); these lordships and territories were already under imperial protection and would constitute the tributary provinces of Cuauhnáhuac and Huaxtepec. The subjection terms of these provinces regarding the headships of the triple Alliance were expressed through tribute both in kind and in personal service. We must note that there were different forms of political and tributary relationships between said instances. This means that the imperial organization was superimposed to the local one in this period. Although mentioned in the book, the independent lordships of the Cuauhnáhuac and Huaxtepec provinces -mostly in the northeast region such as Tetela del Volcán and Hueyapan, among others- are not included in the study.

According to the author, it is relevant to note that Tlalhuica, Xochimilca and Mexica, among others, constituted the migrant groups of Aztlán-Chicomoztoc and that the three of them belonged to the peoples of Náhuatl tradition that presented common characteristics as to their sociopolitical, military and religious organization; this factor is considered in this study.

“Deidades veneradas por los tlalhuicas y xochimilcas de las provincias mexica de Cuauhnáhuac y Huaxtepec: dioses del ‘panteón mexica'” [“Deities worshipped by the Tlalhuica and Xochimilca of the Mexica provinces of Cuauhnáhuac and Huaxtepec: gods of the ‘Mexica pantheon'”] is the title of chapter II; in it, according to available documentary and archaeological information, Maldonado deals with the cult rendered by Tlalhuica and Xochimilca to certain deities of the Mexica pantheon. They shared this cult with other groups of Náhuatl filiation of the central lake region and of the Poblano-Tlaxcalteca zone. Deities basically related to agriculture -agricultural cycles and calendaric cycles- (Cihuacóatl, Xipe Totec), to craftsmanship such as spinning and weaving (Xochiquetzal), to war (Tezcatlipoca, Xipe Totec) and certain ritual activities (Tepuztécatl). Maldonado points out gods’ attributes, the festivities to which they related and the main places where they were worshipped (springs, hills, etcetera).

Even if for some deities such as Xochiquetzal and Xopilli we can talk about a cult extended through the whole Tlalhuica region (Cuauhnáhuac, Huaxtepec, Yautepec and Yecapichtla), others such as Cihuacóatl under her different names (Cihuacóatl-Coatliltzin or Cihuacóatl-Ichpochtli-Quilaztli), Xipe Totec, Tepuztécatl or Tezcatlipoca received a more localized cult. The first in Cuauhnáhuac, Cuauhtetelco and Huaxtepec, the second in Cuauhnáhuac and Cuauhtetelco, the third in Tepotztlán and the fourth in Yacapichtlan, Totolapan, Tlayacapan and Atlatlahuacan. This evidently indicates the main activities performed in the aforementioned places, taking into account that pre-Hispanic gods represented both natural elements and the various human groups and activities.

In chapter III “Deidades con nombres calendáricos” y “fundadoras de pueblos”, veneradas por los tlalhuicas y xochimilcas de las provincias mexica de Cuauhnáhuac y Huaxtepec” [“Deities with ‘calendaric names’ and ‘founders of peoples’, venerated by the Tlalhuica and Xochimilca of the Mexica provinces of Cuauhnáhuac and Huaxtepec”], the author studies eight deities whose cult was restricted to a local sphere. One of these deities has a calendaric name and the other seven are characterized by being founders of peoples. The information obtained is restricted to the province of Huaxtepec, where the settlements, apart from Tepotztlán of Xochimilca filiation, were Tlalhuica.

In the province capital, Matlacxóchitl (ten flowers) was worshipped, and this calendaric name belonged to tonalpohualli, as guardian deity of war and alleviator of divine diseases. Due to its attributes, this deity is intimately related to Cihuacóatl, protective goddess of Huaxtepec.

The people-founding gods, whose names –related to more ancient cults- were identified to the toponyms of their people, are the following:

Xochimilcatzin (local manifestation of Cihuacóatl, patron of Xochimilco), gives its name to Xochimilcatzingo (place of the lady of the flower orchard).

In two of the Ollintepec areas, (people subjected to Huaxtepec and at the same time headship of Tetzcoco en las Amilpas) we find: Chinamécatl (dweller of the place enclosed by reeds) of Chichimeca origin. Deity of corn and preservation, in this case has to do with the dry stalks of corn, and gives its name to Chinameca.

Tetzhuaque (goddess related to corn grinding), is related to the goddesses of preservation such as Chicomecóatl and Xilonen, and gives its name to Tetzhua (Tezhuia or Texhua).

Tepuztécatl (god of pulque) gives its name to Tepoztlán. Amantécatl (deity of drunkness subordinated to Tepuztécatl) gives its name to Amatlán, part of Tepoztlán.

Finally we find two regions of Yacapichtlan: Xochitecacíhuatl (possible goddess of rain), that gives its name to Xochitlán; Nanahuatzin (deity related to rain gods), gives its name to Zacatlán.

Even if we understand that for the moment prior to the Conquest most of the aforementioned places were identified as Tlalhuica, their original population seems to be related to other ethnic groups, which leads us to the question: what happened to the former inhabitants of the area? The last case, that of Nanahuatzin as founder of Zahautlán, opposes the logic we observe in the rest of them.

The fourth and last of the chapters of this book, “Espacios físicos y rituales en la Madre tierra habitada por los tlalhuicas y xochimilcas” [“Physical and ritual spaces in the motherland inhabited by the Tlalhuica and Xochimilca”], is devoted to the study of the interaction between human settlements and places of cult on the one hand, and the environment on the other hand, taking into account that sacred spaces emerge from this interaction. It basically deals with the identification of the places of religious cult and the liminal spaces essentially related in this case to the calendar. According to the author, given the profuse diversity of Morelos landscape, it is only a first attempt to systematize always decreasing, disperse and incomplete information both documentary and archaeological.

In the province of Cuauhnáhuac we see various caves such as the cueva del Padre [Cave of the Father], the cave of Cuentepec and the cave of Coatetelco, related to cults and rites of agricultural character: requesting rain and favoring vegetal fecundity.

The carvings in rocks such as the Piedra del Águila [Rock of the Eagle], the Piedra Chimalli or the Lagarto of San Antón are indicators of some significant event or date.

Equally important, although somehow less related to the natural environment, we find the cues or temples and the momoztlis (altars or shrines), which were places to be visited in peregrinations or places of prayer.

In the province of Huaxtepec we see a greater diversity in the elements of nature chosen as places of cult, which certainly derives from the varied geographical conformation of the region.

In the province capital we often see springs (El Bosque, La Blanca and those of San Juan), indicators of the cult to water and fertility which together with the so-called Jardín de Moctezuma [Garden of Moctezuma] gave the city a ritual religious content while they functioned as symbols of Mexica power.

In the head town of Yautepec, apart from the Cerro de las Tetillas, the relief of Coatlán (Coatlantzingo) is highlighted due to its significance together with the representations of Cipactonal and Oxomoco, lords of the art of divination and inventors of the calendar. According to López Austín -quoted by Maldonado-, Coatlán could even be, in contrast with the archetypical Tamoanchan, one of the three earthly Tamoanchan reported in the sources.

On their part, hills were places of cult both in Yecapichtla and in Tepoztlán.

In Achichpico, Ticumán, Pazulco and Acacuyecan (San Andrés de la Cal), caves and rocky shelters were chosen for the cult to Quetzalcóatl-Ehécatl and to Tláloc, emphasizing -due to its complexity- the sanctuary devoted to Tláloc in Ticumán, Yautepec.

Outside the sphere of the Cuauhnáhuac and Huaxtepec provinces, Maldonado deals with the possible location of the Cerro Teocuicani (the divine singer) of great importance for the inhabitants of both sides of the Popocatépetl; and even if its definitive location is yet to be established, the author leans towards Chalcatzingo because its relief is important for its cosmologic content. According to Broda –quoted by Maldonado- in this place “the symbolism of agricultural fertility, of the rain, the clouds, the wind associated to caves and the monster of earth, as entrance to the depths of the earth, are dominant subjects that establish a continuity with the symbolism of representations of later times”.

In the conclusions, the author returns to his statements and ties the possible lose ends in what he calls “an overall view of the concrete results of the research”. In fact, in his study, taking into account his previous works, what Druzo Maldonado does in my opinion is to analytically gather the information from sources, archaeology and field work to rebuild, even if in a fragmented way because the information is incomplete, what we can denominate a “religious-ritual map” of pre-Hispanic Morelos at the moment prior to the Conquest. This is an innovative research that is inscribed in what may already be called the “Brodian school” of the study of religion, rituals and the expression of all this in the interaction of the communities with their surrounding in the so-called ritual landscape. In brief, Maldonado’s research is one more link in his chain of studies about Morelos in pre-Hispanic times and it is the prelude that will complete what doctor Johanna Broda has called “a model of regional research.”

Finally, we only wish that in a near future we can have access to the latest research on Morelos by the now doctor Druzo Maldonado Jiménez.

Jesús Monjarás-Ruiz
Centro INAH Morelos.
English translation by Denisse Piñera Palacios.

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