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The Concept of “Chichimec” in Native Identity and Perception, (Pre-Hispanic and Colonial Central Mexico)

Justyna A. Olko-Bajer, University of Warsaw, Summer Fellow 2008

My research at Dumbarton Oaks encompassed a broad query of several categories of sources and was planned as a systematic collection of data in the early phase of the project that focuses on multiple dimensions of the concept of chichimecayotl and Chichimecs, semi-barbarian groups from northern Mexico and supposed ancestors of Nahua communities. The excellent library resources enabled me to explore Nahuatl and Spanish sources belonging to historical and religious genres, but embracing also selected documents associated with the indigenous nobility. Another category of sources essential for my research was pertinent iconographic material, especially selected pictorial manuscripts, including some of the late colonial Techialoyan codices and Títulos primordiales, as well as colonial paintings containing representations of inhabitants of northern Mesoamerica. I was able to gather relatively ample documentation associated with the perception of the sixteenth-century Chichimec groups in the light of the guerra chichimeca taking place in the northern frontier of Mesoamerica. An indispensable part of the project was a systematic reassessment of previous research dealing with this subject matter.

I hope that this multifaceted and interdisciplinary analysis, planned to be be continued in the forthcoming years, will contribute to the understanding of important pre-Hispanic and early colonial concepts associated with indigenous identity, historical traditions, historiography, and ethnic stereotypes. During my stay at Dumbarton Oaks I was also working on a paper entitled Memory, transformation, and survival: The constructions of identity in native genealogies of New Spain, and made final revisions to my book conceived as a systematic introduction to the cultures of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica (to be published in Polish).