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

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Abstract

This essay studies the Franciscan missionary Fray Bernardino de Sahagún's cultural translation of Nahua gods and ceremonies in Book I of his work Historia universal de las cosas de Nueva España (1577). In 1558, under missionary commission, he completed his first text in Nahuatl, which sought to supply his fellow missionaries with a linguistic and cultural tool to extirpate what was considered indigenous idolatry. From 1575 to 1577, following a royal request for accounts on New World territories he translated his own interpretation of the Nahua world into Spanish. This essay aims to demonstrate that, regardless of different translation briefs, translation purposes, and target-text audiences, in both tasks Sahagún understood, relocated, and confined the source culture of the Nahuas into a written text according to his Western ideology and cosmological order. Two sections are devoted to proving these assumptions. The first examines how Sahagún organized the material he had collected according to an encyclopaedic schema inherited from classical authors and prevalent in medieval compilation literature. The second provides examples of the way in which Sahagún made manifestations of Nahua religion practice comprehensible by establishing recognisable associations with his Christian mentality and clerical training.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-222
Number of pages12
JournalRomance Studies
Volume27
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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Cultural Translation
Ceremony
Deity
Missionaries
Ideology
Idolatry
Religion
Compilation
Medieval Period
Nahuatl
Manifestation
Franciscans
Mentality

Keywords

  • Cultural Translation
  • Domestication
  • Colonial Latin America
  • Conversion

Cite this

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title = "Domesticating the Nahuas: Fray Bernardino de Sahag{\'u}n’s Cultural Translation of Nahua Gods and Ceremonies in Book I of Historia universal de las cosas de Nueva Espa{\~n}a",
abstract = "This essay studies the Franciscan missionary Fray Bernardino de Sahag{\'u}n's cultural translation of Nahua gods and ceremonies in Book I of his work Historia universal de las cosas de Nueva Espa{\~n}a (1577). In 1558, under missionary commission, he completed his first text in Nahuatl, which sought to supply his fellow missionaries with a linguistic and cultural tool to extirpate what was considered indigenous idolatry. From 1575 to 1577, following a royal request for accounts on New World territories he translated his own interpretation of the Nahua world into Spanish. This essay aims to demonstrate that, regardless of different translation briefs, translation purposes, and target-text audiences, in both tasks Sahag{\'u}n understood, relocated, and confined the source culture of the Nahuas into a written text according to his Western ideology and cosmological order. Two sections are devoted to proving these assumptions. The first examines how Sahag{\'u}n organized the material he had collected according to an encyclopaedic schema inherited from classical authors and prevalent in medieval compilation literature. The second provides examples of the way in which Sahag{\'u}n made manifestations of Nahua religion practice comprehensible by establishing recognisable associations with his Christian mentality and clerical training.",
keywords = "Cultural Translation, Domestication, Colonial Latin America, Conversion",
author = "{Rios Castano}, Victoria",
year = "2009",
doi = "10.1179/174581509X455123",
language = "English",
volume = "27",
pages = "211--222",
journal = "Romance Studies",
number = "3",

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N2 - This essay studies the Franciscan missionary Fray Bernardino de Sahagún's cultural translation of Nahua gods and ceremonies in Book I of his work Historia universal de las cosas de Nueva España (1577). In 1558, under missionary commission, he completed his first text in Nahuatl, which sought to supply his fellow missionaries with a linguistic and cultural tool to extirpate what was considered indigenous idolatry. From 1575 to 1577, following a royal request for accounts on New World territories he translated his own interpretation of the Nahua world into Spanish. This essay aims to demonstrate that, regardless of different translation briefs, translation purposes, and target-text audiences, in both tasks Sahagún understood, relocated, and confined the source culture of the Nahuas into a written text according to his Western ideology and cosmological order. Two sections are devoted to proving these assumptions. The first examines how Sahagún organized the material he had collected according to an encyclopaedic schema inherited from classical authors and prevalent in medieval compilation literature. The second provides examples of the way in which Sahagún made manifestations of Nahua religion practice comprehensible by establishing recognisable associations with his Christian mentality and clerical training.

AB - This essay studies the Franciscan missionary Fray Bernardino de Sahagún's cultural translation of Nahua gods and ceremonies in Book I of his work Historia universal de las cosas de Nueva España (1577). In 1558, under missionary commission, he completed his first text in Nahuatl, which sought to supply his fellow missionaries with a linguistic and cultural tool to extirpate what was considered indigenous idolatry. From 1575 to 1577, following a royal request for accounts on New World territories he translated his own interpretation of the Nahua world into Spanish. This essay aims to demonstrate that, regardless of different translation briefs, translation purposes, and target-text audiences, in both tasks Sahagún understood, relocated, and confined the source culture of the Nahuas into a written text according to his Western ideology and cosmological order. Two sections are devoted to proving these assumptions. The first examines how Sahagún organized the material he had collected according to an encyclopaedic schema inherited from classical authors and prevalent in medieval compilation literature. The second provides examples of the way in which Sahagún made manifestations of Nahua religion practice comprehensible by establishing recognisable associations with his Christian mentality and clerical training.

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