Introduction

FIGURE 1. The Nochixtlan Valley in the Mixteca Alta. June 2007. Photo by Byron Hamann.

FIGURE 1. The Nochixtlan Valley in the Mixteca Alta. June 2007. Photo by Byron Hamann.

FIGURE 2. Celebrations honoring Saint John the Baptist in San Juan Mixtepec, the Mixteca Baja. May 2007. Photo by Byron Hamann.

FIGURE 2. Celebrations honoring Saint John the Baptist in San Juan Mixtepec, the Mixteca Baja. May 2007. Photo by Byron Hamann.

The Ñudzavui screenfolds were created in an area of southern Mexico today called the Mixteca. They were created by a people who called themselves the tay ñuudzavui, the “People of the Rain Place.” They called their language dzaha dzavui, “Rain Speech.” The word “Mixtec” is derived from a Nahuatl-language word meaning “Cloud People,” and was used to describe the People of the Rain Place by the Aztecs and, later, by the Spaniards.1 This tutorial introduces you to geographic, political, religious, and material aspects of the Rain Place and to its Postclassic and early colonial inhabitants (Figure 1).

The Spaniards first came to the Mixteca in 1522, shortly after conquering the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. The arrival of the Spaniards in Mesoamerica is used to mark the end of the prehispanic “Postclassic period” (AD 800-1521). The contents of the Ñudzavui screenfolds are focused on the elite history of the People of the Rain Place during six centuries, from around AD 940 to AD 1560.2

Although Mesolore focuses on the culture of the People of the Rain Place during both the Postclassic and the first century after the arrival of the Spaniards, it is important to remember that the descendants of the people who created the screenfolds still live in Mexico today—as well as in the United States and Canada (Figure 2).

The Rain Place >
________________________________________________________________________________________

1 Terraciano 2001, 1.

2 On the correlation of screenfold chronology to the Gregorian calendar, and for a timeline of prehispanic and early colonial Ñudzavui history, see Byland and Pohl 1994, 233-263.