Domesticating the Nahuas: Sahagún’s Cultural Translation of Nahua Gods and Ceremonies in Book I of Historia universal de las cosas de Nueva

Victoria Rios Castano

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    This essay studies the Franciscan missionary Fray Bernardino de Sahagún’scultural translation of Nahua gods and ceremonies in Book I of his workHistoria universal de las cosas de Nueva España (1577). In 1558, under missionarycommission, he completed his fi rst text in Nahuatl, which sought tosupply his fellow missionaries with a linguistic and cultural tool to extirpatewhat was considered indigenous idolatry. From 1575 to 1577, following aroyal request for accounts on New World territories he translated his owninterpretation of the Nahua world into Spanish. This essay aims to demonstratethat, regardless of different translation briefs, translation purposes,and target-text audiences, in both tasks Sahagún understood, relocated, andconfi ned the source culture of the Nahuas into a written text according tohis Western ideology and cosmological order. Two sections are devoted toproving these assumptions. The fi rst examines how Sahagún organized thematerial he had collected according to an encyclopaedic schema inheritedfrom classical authors and prevalent in medieval compilation literature. Thesecond provides examples of the way in which Sahagún made manifestationsof Nahua religion practice comprehensible by establishing recognisableassociations with his Christian mentality and clerical training.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)211-222
    JournalRomance Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


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