FIGURE 23. The four symbols of the component altepetl of Tlaxcala, from the main scene of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
FIGURE 24. The empire of Charles V as represented in his coat of arms, from the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
FIGURE 25. The geographic visions of the Matícula de Tributos (top) and the Lienzo de Tlaxcala (bottom). From Mesolore’s Atlas.
The Matrícula de Tributos also depicts many of the same places shown in the Lienzo de Tlaxcala. This is not surprising. The MatríÂcula is an account of the territories incorporated into the Aztec empire, and the Lienzo tells how that very empire was conquered by the Tlaxcalans and their European allies. But as we were creating Mesolore’s Atlas, and mapping out the places depicted on the MatríÂcula and Lienzo, we realized that the creators of the Lienzo used geography in very strategic ways. By comparing the geographic visions depicted in the Matrícula and Lienzo, we can see how the Lienzo’s Tlaxcalan authors presented themselves—and their European allies—as even greater warriors than the Aztecs had ever been.
Above, in Figure 3, we illustrated a detail from the main scene at the top of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala. In the four corners of this detail are the symbols of the four main altepetl of Tlaxcala. The upper two are shaped like birds, and the lower two take the form of feathered headdresses.
In turn, these four battle standards surround two large images. Below is a green bell-shaped hill representing Tlaxcala, and above is the coat of arms of Charles V. A double-headed eagle holds an elaborate shield in its claws, and to the left and right are two columns marked with Charles V’s Latin Motto: Plus Ultra, “Further Beyond.”
As discussed in Mesolore’s Introduction to the Lienzo de Tlaxcala tutorial, the physical layout of Charles V’s shield has much in common with the physical layout of the Lienzo. Both shield and Lienzo are divided by lines into smaller cells, and within these cells are painted representations of specific places. Both shield and Lienzo are symbolic territorial maps. Charles V’s shield represents the various kingdoms that Charles V had inherited from his ancestors: Castile, Leon, Austria, Hungary, the Duchy of Brabant (Figure 24). The Lienzo represents the various altepetl that the Tlaxcalans had helped their European allies to conquer between 1519 and 1531.
But, as is true for any historical account, the Lienzo tells a carefully crafted tale. It does not represent each and every battle the Tlaxcalans and their European allies took part in. Instead, it focuses on three different military campaigns (see Figure 25, bottom). The first campaign fills cells 1 to 51. These cells span the years 1519 to 1523 and focus on the conquests with Hernán Cortés. Most of these battles took place either in the Valley of Mexico (the valley surrounding the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan) or in the Valley of Puebla, just to the east (the valley in which Tlaxcala was located). A few other skirmishes on the Gulf Coast are also recorded.
The remaining cells in the Lienzo—cells 52 to 87—recount two other military campaigns. Cells 52 to 75 recount the conquests undertaken to the west with NuÃ±o de Guzmán between 1529 and 1531. Cells 76 to 87 recount the conquests undertaken to the south with Pedro de Alvarado in 1524. 
But not all of Pedro de Alvarado’s southern conquests are retold in the Lienzo. We know from other sources that he and his Tlaxcalan allies traveled from Central Mexico down through Oaxaca, and were involved in a number of battles there. Indeed, a group of Tlaxcalan settlers even founded their own community in northern Oaxaca, and their descendants would claim Tlaxcalan identity throughout the colonial period. But these Oaxacan conquests are not included in the Lienzo. From other sources, we know that many other European-Tlaxcalan conquests elsewhere in Mesoamerica are not included in the Lienzo’s accounts.35
If we compare the geographical visions of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala with those of the MatríÂcula de Tributos, we may understand why the Lienzo recounts the battles that it does. Figure 25 shows two maps from Mesolore’s Atlas. On the top are plotted towns which appear in the Matrícula de Tributos. This document, you will recall, depicts an Aztec view of the Aztec empire. You can see that a number of towns around AÃ±ute (or Jaltepec, discussed above) and Oaxaca City are included in the Matrícula’s accounts. On the bottom of Figure 25 are plotted towns which appear in the Lienzo de Tlaxcala. These two maps overlap in their treatment of the core of the Aztec Empire: the settlements surrounding Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) and in the Valley of Puebla (the lands surrounding Tlaxcala). But the two maps depict very different southern and western extremes. The extreme western limits of the places depicted in the Matrícula are on the Pacific coast of what is now the Mexican state of Guerrero. The extreme southern limits of places depicted in the Matrícula are on the Pacific coast of what is now the Mexican state of Chiapas. In contrast, the Lienzo depicts battles that are even further to the west and south of lands that had been ruled by the Aztecs. The Lienzo depicts western battles beyond Guerrero, in what are now the Mexican states of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Sinaloa. It also shows southern battles beyond Chiapas, in what are now Guatemala and El Salvador.
In other words, the Lienzo shows the conquest of the core of the Aztec empire in its first 51 cells. But in its final two sections, it focuses on conquests undertaken by the Tlaxcalans and their European allies that went beyond the former limits of the Aztec empire. The Lienzo shows both how the Aztec empire was conquered by the Tlaxcalans and their allies, and how those same warriors went on to surpass Aztec military achievements. Thanks to the Tlaxcalans, Charles V was a greater ruler than any Aztec emperor had ever been.
Plus Ultra, “Further Beyond.” As we saw above, this was Charles V’s motto, combined with two columns representing the Pillars of Hercules (Figure 3). In ancient and medieval Europe, these Pillars had been associated with the Straits of Gibraltar, and symbolized the western limits of the Mediterranean world. By taking these pillars as his emblem, and by adopting the motto Plus Ultra, Charles presented himself as a ruler whose lands extended beyond Europe and the Mediterranean. Charles surpassed the ancient Roman emperors in that he was lord of the Atlantic and the Americas as well as the Mediterranean and Europe.36 In many ways, the geographic visions of the Lienzo suggest that the Tlaxcalans sought to claim Charles V’s motto as their own. The Tlaxcalan conquests in Mesoamerica, as presented in the Lienzo, had truly gone Further Beyond the conquests of their ancient enemies, the Aztecs.37
Text by Byron Hamann
33 Dana Leibsohn has recently argued that this kind of ‘strategic visual archaism’ was also used by the arists of the Historia Tolteca Chichimeca (Leibsohn 2009: 148).
34 On Alvarado and the conquest of Guatemala, see Kramer 1994 and Asselbergs 2004.
35 König 1993; Yannakakis 2008, 192-218.
36 As David Lupher has argued (2003), many Europeans described their own exploits in the New World as deeds which surpassed the actions of the heroes of Antiquity.
37 By the middle of the sixteenth century, a number of indigenous people in Mesoamerica knew Latin, and were well-versed in the iconographic traditions of Europe; see Osorio Romero 1990; Gruzinski 2002; Hamann 2011.