Costume and Ethnicity
FIGURE 13. Capes from the tribute province of Ocuilan, on folio 7v of the Matrícula de Tributos. Alphabetic glosses in Nahuatl describe these as “Huitzizilla-style” (left), “with notable drawings” (center), and “Ocuilan-style” (right).
FIGURE 18. Cell 1 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala, which contrasts the cloth-bound long hair of two Tlaxcalan nobles (left) with the long unbound hair of a foreign messenger (right).
FIGURE 26. Small white Tlaxcalan-style labret (above) and long curved Huexotzingo-style labret (below) in Cell 40 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
FIGURE 19. Tlaxcalan converts to Christianity wear their hair cut short in a European style, from Cell 8 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Only one indigenous man (front row, to the left) still wears his long hair bound in cloth. His feathered headband may indicated that he is ethnically Otomi. In the background, the short European hairstyle is worn by bearded Europeans.
FIGURE 25. Ethnicity and labret styles on folio 11v of the Matrícula de Tributos. A prisoner from Tlaxcala wears a small white labret (left) and a prisoner from Huexotzingo wears a long curved labret (right).
FIGURE 29. Man from Chiyametlan wearing a red feather as a nose ornament in Cell 67 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
Up until now, we have focused on the different types of clothing worn to distinguish men from women. Clothing was also used to express different ethnic identities. People living in different altepetl (city-states) were associated with different styles of clothing. In Figure 13 we saw the different textile patterns associated with Ocuilan and Huitzizilla. The most common example of ethnic dress in the Lienzo is the twisted red and white headband (further accented with a panache of feathers) worn by the Tlaxcalans (Figure 18, 26). This style may have once been limited to the rulers of Tlaxcala, but in colonial documents it is used to indicate members of the nobility in general.
Other examples of ethnic dress are probably shown in the Lienzo, but more study is needed to understand them. In the first two rows of cells, a feathered headband seems to indicate Otomi nobles (the two main languages spoken in the kingdom of Tlaxcala were Nahuatl and Otomi)(Figure 19, first row, far left). However, later on in the Lienzo this type of headband seems to be worn by enemies of the Tlaxcalans as well. A number of warriors fighting on the side of the Tlaxcalans and Europeans in the Lienzo wear long curved labrets. As we saw above, one of these long curved labrets also appears on folio 11v of the Matrícula, worn by a prisoner from Huexotzingo (Figure 25, 26). This curved labret, then, may have been associated with the altepetl of Huexotzingo.
A more complicated combination of ‘ethnic’ costume elements appear in the final rows of the Lienzo. There, many of the enemy warriors are shown wearing stripes of black face paint across their eyes and cheeks, headdresses and back ornaments of orange feathers, and (as discussed in the previous section) red feathers through their noses (Figure 29). Many of these scenes take place in the western part of what is now Mexico, so perhaps these costume elements were meant to reflect a type of west Mexican dress. However, at least two of the scenes featuring the striped face paint and orange feathered headdresses and back ornaments (cells 79 and 80) take place in Guatemala. Instead of referencing actual west Mexican practice, it may be that these costume elements were invented by the Tlaxcalan artists who painted the Lienzo in order to signal the foreignness or barbarism of their enemies.
22 Nicholson 1967; Kranz 2001: 213-214; Cosentino 2002, 191-193, 211-212.
23 Jeanne Gillespie argues that a topknot is associated with Cholula in the Lienzo and that a feather crown is associated with the Acolhua (Gillespie 2004, 69, 79, 85). However, like the ‘Otomi’ headbands the use of these hairstyles and costume elements does not seem entirely consistent.
24 For an archaeological study of obsidian labrets as a sign of Otomi ethnic identity, see Brumfiel et al. 1994.
25 The Relación de Michoacan, a sixteenth-century document from the Tarascan region of western Mexico, includes several images of feather headdresses not unlike those worn in the western Mexico sections of the Lienzo. However, in the Relación those headdresses are not limited to red or orange feathers (Alcalá 2000, plates 41 and 42).