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Shifting Landscape: Depictions of Environmental and Cultural Disruption in the “Mapa Uppsala”

Jennifer Saracino, Tulane University, Junior Fellow 2015–2016

My fellowship allowed me to continue research on my dissertation project that investigates the Mapa Uppsala, the earliest known map of Mexico City painted by indigenous artists after the conquest. The map presents the city and its environs and includes depictions of indigenous people engaged in a variety of activities, a detailed rendering of the valley’s roads and waterways, and almost two hundred indigenous place glyphs. By combining studies of indigenous mapmaking traditions (both Pre-Columbian and early colonial) with a visual analysis of the map’s composition, my project focuses on how the Mapa Uppsala is a carefully constructed, visual testament to the lived experience of its indigenous artists.

Throughout my fellowship, I analyzed the library’s collection of facsimiles of Pre-Columbian and early colonial indigenous-made manuscripts. I focused particularly on the artists’ employment of indigenous cartographic conventions and depiction of space in the Mapa Uppsala, as compared to the diverse corpus of extant indigenous-made materials we have from Central Mexico. As a direct result of this research, I am able to demonstrate in my dissertation how the Mapa Uppsala’s indigenous artists creatively combined elements of Pre-Columbian and European pictorial tradition to innovate cartographic production. This research contributes to our understanding of the resilience, continuity, and transformation of indigenous pictorial tradition after the Spanish conquest. This fellowship also enabled me to complete several articles for publication that illuminate aspects of sixteenth-century indigenous manuscript production, including facture, workshop practices, and collaboration among artists.