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Christopher Valesey

“‘With Eagle-ness, with Jaguar-ness’: Predators and Military Tropes in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica”

Christopher Valesey

Pennsylvania State University, Pre-Columbian Studies Summer Fellow

Early colonial Spanish chroniclers invented ideas about the existence of Eagle and Jaguar Knights to articulate Mesoamerican culture to Spanish readers. Eagles and jaguars did not represent a military institution, but rather a broader Pre-Columbian military ethos that conveyed ideal martial behaviors to all of Mexica society. Cultural perceptions of eagles and jaguars were constructed based on physical interactions with the animals themselves. In turn, the animals’ physical bodies played a key role in rituals and regalia. These two captive-taking predators, themselves perceived as warriors, became closely intertwined with Mesoamerican ideas about warfare, empire-building, cosmovision, and ideal behavior.

Chris Valesey is a doctoral candidate in colonial Latin American history at Pennsylvania State University. His dissertation, titled “Managing the Herd: Nahuas and Livestock in Sixteenth-Century New Spain,” explores the social and cultural impacts of the introduction of livestock in Nahua communities. To study this topic, Valesey takes an interdisciplinary approach by weaving together textual, archaeological, artistic, and linguistic evidence from both the pre-Hispanic and early colonial periods.