Capturing Warfare

Cartographic History

During the early colonial period, the indigenous people of Central Mexico painted cartographic histories on large cloth panels. These pictorials are known as lienzos, from the Spanish word for cotton cloth. In this usage, the word is similar to the English word canvas.

One such indigenous pictographic document is the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan, a pictorial that recounts the story of the conquest of Guatemala. The creators of the document belonged to the Nahua community of Quauhquechollan, located in the region of present-day Puebla, Mexico. The Quauhquecholteca allied themselves with the Spanish to conquer the communities in what is now southern Mexico and Guatemala. This document portrays the 1527-1529 campaign of Spaniard Jorge de Alvarado, as seen by the Nahua warriors. The Quauhquecholteca created it to inform their own community, to document their vital role in the conquest, and to legitimize their privileged position in the new order.

The original Lienzo de Quauhquechollan is in the collection of the Museo Casa de Alfeñique, in Puebla, Mexico. With the support of the Banco G & T Continental, the Universidad Francisco Marroquín of Guatemala digitally restored the document. A digitally restored copy, along with an animated recreation of the story, is on exhibit at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala City.