Ordering the Present, Ennobling the Future: Roles of Women in the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan

Digital Restoration of the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan (2009), courtesy of Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM).

A continuación están las imágenes de la ponencia del 9 de marzo, 2022 en la Conferencia Internacional de Literatura y Estudios Hispánicos en San Juan, Puerto Rico. Las imágenes, cortesía de la Universidad Francisco Marroquín, vienen de una restoración digital del lienzo que se realizó en 2009. Agradezco su amable participación y comentarios, de antemano.

Below you are the images from the presentation of March 9, 2022 at the Conferencia Internacional de Literatura y Estudios Hispánicos in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The images, courtesy of the Universidad Francisco Marroquín, come from a digital restoration of the lienzo completed in 2009. Thank you in advance for your attendance, participation and any comments you may have.


The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan, a narrative map from the 1530s shows how a Nahua town sent warriors to help the Spanish conquer Guatemala, in exchange for promises of lands and status in the new colonial order. Similarly, the Tira de Tepechpan (c. 1310-1590) shows a timeline that the Nahua village of Tepechpan painted in order to secure status and privileges in a rapidly changing world. While Lori Diel’s commentaries on the tira shed light on the role of women as crucial for demonstrating the royal ancestry of the town’s leadership, until now a similar analysis has not been applied to the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan, which also pictures women as active agents, cast as members of nobility. In this paper, I examine particular depictions of women in the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan in order to argue that the painters (tlacuiloque) of this narrative map aimed at providing evidence for special status under the recently imposed Spanish bureaucracy. Florine Asselburgs and the chronicles of Spanish conquistadors (Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Pedro de Alvarado) report that native women went on the Guatemalan campaign primarily to do domestic chores, or as wives and concubines. While these functions have historical evidence behind them, rhetorical content of this lienzo suggests that they also went with the aim of establishing the leadership of their town in a remote capacity. By focusing my analysis on specific depictions of women in the context of marketplaces (tianguis) and in vignettes of migration, my observations work to ensure that Spanish chroniclers do not have the last word. While ennobling self-portrayals do not change power relationships in the past, they do shed light on possible motivations for Quauhquechollan’s participation in a military campaign that took them far from their homes in Central Mexico, and south into a land that not even the most powerful Aztec lords had been able to conquer. From their perspective, they stood much to gain, even if the alliance with the Spanish did not produce all desired outcomes. In light of these motivations, we can understand how the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan reveals indigenous aspirations, projects, and goals, their stories in spite of colonialism.

1) Malintzin, Opening Alliance Scene in Quauhquechollan, courtesy of UFM
2) Woman engages in barter in a tianguis (market) near Chimaltenango in Guatemala courtesy of UFM
3) Quauhquecholteca woman converses in a tianguis near San Miguel Tzacualpan in Guatemala, courtesy of UFM
4) Quauhquecholteca woman engages in trade in a tianguis near Lake Quilizanapan in Guatemala, courtesy of UFM
5) An ahuiani “pleasure woman”; this occupation existed in Central Mexico before the Spanish invasion. (Florentine Codex, Bk. 10, Ch. 15, World Digital Library)
6) Quauhquecholteca woman works next to a river near Ollintepeque, Guatemala, courtesy of UFM
6) Two Quauhquecholteca women carry weapons and support combatants, courtesy of UFM

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