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The author of the book: William Madsen
ISBN: 0292741340
ISBN 13: 9780292741348
Edition: University of Texas Press
Date of issue: March 21st 2012
Language: English
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 391 KB
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Reader ratings: 7.9

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An absorbing account of the descendants of the ancient Aztecs and of the survival of their culture into the twentieth century in the Valley of Mexico is presented in this fascinating volume. Focusing on San Francisco Tecospa--a village of some eight hundred Indians who still spoke Nahuatl, whose lives were dominated by supernaturalism, and who observed with only slight modification much of their Aztec heritage--this story bears out the anthropological principle that innovations are most likely to be accepted when they are useful, communicable, and compatible with established tradition.

Nowhere is the Indian genius for combining the old and the new better exemplified than in the story of how the Virgin of Guadalupe came to fulfill the role formerly played by the pagan goddess Tonantzin and of how Christian saints replaced the Aztec gods. At the time of this study, the Tecospans still called the Catholic Virgin Tonantzin, but their concept of the mother goddess had changed profoundly since Aztec times.

Tonantzin the Pagan, a hideous goddess with claws on her hands and feet and with snakes entwining her face, wore a necklace of hearts, hands, and skulls to represent her insatiable appetite for corpses. Tonantzin the Catholic--also called Guadalupe--is a beautiful and benevolent mother deity who repeatedly stays God's anger against her Mexican children and answers the prayers of the poorest Indian, with no thought of return.

In Tecospa the road to social recognition lay in the performance of religious works, and the neglect of ritual obligation subjected both the individual and the community to the anger of supernaturals who punished with illness or other misfortune. Religion was inextricably a part of every phase of life, and it is the whole life of the Aztecan that is recorded here: fiesta, clothing, food, agricultural practices, courtship, marriage, pregnancy and childbirth, death, witchcraft and its cures, medical practices and attitudes, houses and home life, ethics, and the hot-cold complex that classifies everything in the Tecospan universe from God to Bromo-Seltzer.

With a marked simplicity of style and language William Madsen has produced a profoundly significant anthropological study that is delightful reading from the first sentence to the last. The drawings, the work of a ten-year-old Tecospan lad, are remarkable for their penetrating insight into the culture.


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