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1 The Collision Of Cultures
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30 The Second World War
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32 Through The Picture Window: Society And Culture, 19451960
33 Conflict And Deadlock: The Eisenhower Years
34 New Frontiers: Politics And Social Change In The 1960s
35 Rebellion And Reaction In The 1960s And 1970s
36 A Conservative Insurgency
37 Triumph And Tragedy: America At The Turn Of The Century

Watercolor "Professions of the Tarascans" (1540)

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This watercolor painting by a Franciscan monk depicts the wide variety of professions of the Tarascan people (from an area near Mexico City) before the Spanish conquest. It reveals a complex society with many levels of hierarchy, nobility, and craft skills. Native American societies varied widely throughout the Americas, but those around the Aztec Empire in Mexico and the Incan Empire in Peru were among the most complex and hierarchical.

Professions of the Tarascan People, Mexico
Occupational Groups. Ink and wash drawing.
In Relacíon de las ceremonias y ritos y población y gobierno de los indios de la provincia de Mechoacán
compiled by Fray Jeronimo de Alcala (?).
[19th century manuscript facsimile of the ca. 1540 original].
Peter Force Collection,
Manuscript Division

The Tarascans inhabited Michoacán, an area west of Tenochtitlán (present-day Mexico City) and south of Guadalajara. This illustration depicts schematically various occupational groups existing before the coming of the Spanish. Groups of figures sit, each with an object or symbol such as a net, a loom, a bow and arrow, a writing instrument, feathers, etc., that identifies the occupation of a specific group. A couple of figures in the upper part of the illustration sit alone and are identified as being theCazonciandsu gobernador(their governor).

This well-illustrated manuscript from Mexico chronicles the history and customs of the Tarascan people before as well as during the Conquest in the area of Michoacán. Although written by a Franciscan friar, it is largely based on the accounts of informants among the Tarascan nobility and priests, thus essentially expressing an indigenous point of view. The text and numerous illustrations describe the government, customs, and elaborate society of the Tarascan people.


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