Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives


On Miracles and Politics in Colonial Imagery

  • News Image
    Detail of the Codex Mendoza (ca. 1541)

International Studies faculty member Patrick Hajovsky travels to Europel to speak about and study religious and political imagery in colonial Spanish America.

Dr. Patrick Hajovsky spent part of the fall in Europe speaking about divine intervention in Peruvian earthquakes. Sound odd? In fact, it’s not. On Oct 12 he presented a paper at the Université de Toulouse - Le Mirail for a group of scholars of Spanish America about local memory and competing miraculous images in Cusco, Peru that were responsible for intervening in earthquakes. One was Our Lady of the Remedies, which was favored among Spanish magistrates in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The other was Our Lord of the Earthquakes, which has since and to this day been preferred. So, how does one explain this discrepancy? “I posit that the answer lies in the intersections between official histories written by Spanish magistrates, and popular festivals in which these images take part,” Dr. Hajovsky says.
After his talk Dr. Hajovsky heads to the Ethnological Museum, in Vienna, and Ethnological Museum, in Berlin, to examine sculptures under the patronage of the Aztec emperor Moctezuma for an upcoming book on Moctezuma’s fame. “This is important,” says Dr. Hajovsky, “because the photographs I have been studying for this project can only go so far to convey the properties of a three-dimensional sculpture. I need to confirm that I’ve seen and thought about all of their properties.” From there he will visit the Bodleian Library at Oxford University to examine another aspect of Moctezuma’s historical persona contained in one page of the Codex Mendoza, an important Mexican manuscript dated to ca. 1541 (20 years after the Conquest) in which there is a “portrait” of the Aztec emperor. Why is this important? “There’s much controversy as to whether or not Moctezuma had a beard, since the beard was an important symbol of virility and power to European audiences.” In an earlier study Dr. Hajovsky had found that in Andre Thevet’s 1584 publication, True Lives and Portraits of Illustrious Men, Moctezuma is beardless while his Spanish adversary Cortés (as with other European explorers) is presented with a heavy beard. Understanding how Moctezuma is depicted in the Codex Mendoza can provide a piece of evidence to help reveal the motivations behind representations of the Aztec emperor in European colonial history.