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Journal > Volumes > 52 (2021) / 4 (Winter)
Perseverance of the Eagle-Jaguar Military Ethos in Sixteenth-Century New Spain
Chris Valesey
Ball State University

Traditional scholarship on pre-and postconquest Central Mexico describes an institution of elite warriors commonly called eagle or jaguar “knights.” These works heavily rely on a small set of Spanish chronicles in which the authors (primarily religious officials) crafted ideas of indigenous military orders to make indigenous culture comprehensible for their Spanish readers. Eagle and jaguar military orders do not exist in Nahuatl texts. Instead, Nahuas invoked rhetoric about eagles and jaguars not to refer to warrior orders, but to metonymically refer to warfare, rulership, or socially respected qualities attainable by all members of the social strata. Spanish religious officials not only were aware of this practice, but also fused the notion of acting “with eagle-ness, with jaguar-ness” into Christian sermons, ceremonies, and iconography.

Pages: 977 - 1 000