Monday, August 13, 2012

Mexican Eagles 1: The Aztec Eagle

This is the first in a series of posts exploring the role of the eagle and its portrayal in Mexican art,  with a focus on sculptural reliefs in Aztec and early colonial times.

The Aztec Eagle, from the Codex Mendoza

The Aztec Eagle

In the 15th century the wandering Aztecs founded their capital city Tenochtitlan in the middle of Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico.
According to their origin myth, their patron Huitzilpochtli a god of war, sun and fire, foretold that the long Aztec migration from Aztlan, their ancestral homeland in the north, would come to an end where they saw an eagle perched on a cactus, and there they would found a great city. 

The Hapsburg two headed eagle, with Crown and snake (Jalpan, Queretaro)

The Hapsburg Imperial Eagle

Following the Spanish conquest, the Aztec eagle was supplanted by the double headed Imperial Eagle of the Hapsburgs—the insignia of the ruling dynasty in Spain 

This emblem was universally emblazoned on churches and public buildings in the early colonial period in Mexico.

However, after Independence in 1821, most of these images were erased, and in many cases replaced in turn by the Aztec eagle—the symbol of modern Mexico.

The Mexican Eagle, with snake, cactus and Lake Texcoco

In following posts we will see how these sometimes conflicting and often ambiguous images were adapted in early colonial Mexico.

text © 2012 Richard D. Perry

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