Biography of Hernando de Alvarado Tezozomoc (1525-1610)

Indigenous Mexican chronicler, born in 1525 and died in 1610. Very few biographical data which, with respect to his person, have survived to this day, although it seems certain that it was one of the grandchildren of Moctezuma II Xocoyotzin. It is possible to work for much of his life in the Royal Court of the Viceroyalty of the new Spain, as a translator into Spanish, nahuatl language he/she knew to perfection.

His literary legacy is a fundamental source for knowledge of the pre-Hispanic Mexico and the language used there by most of its inhabitants. It left handwritten two interesting Chronicles that, despite its documentary value, were not printed during the colonial period; In addition, according to scholars of his work, he/she should write a third Chronicle that, today, is considered defunct. According to told in his two known works, the contents of the third should be referred to the period of the conquest of Mexico.

The Mexican Chronicle.

The first of the works of Hernando de Alvarado Tezozomoc, written around 1598, is entitled Mexican Chronicle in Spanish language. Despite this indication - manifesting the clear will of the author, approaching the knowledge of the current leaders of his people-the history of their ancestors, now seems to be that this historical relationship was a first draft in nahuatl language, since formal schemes and specific stylistic features of the way of thinking and recounting of the indigenous people can be observed in its structure. Actually, the historical value to be attributed to this work by Hernando de Alvarado is subordinated to its abundant literary digressions, consisting of fabulous stories and narratives of the pre-Columbian mythology. Furthermore, historians that overlook the Mexican Chronicle are major obstacles when it comes to establishing a precise chronology of related events, since Alvarado Tezozomoc was used for his dating of the facts the Aztec calendar. Another difficulty for historians lies in the excessive use of various words and phrases from the nahuatl, which is compounded by a hesitant use of Spanish, where their hesitancy, leads to wrong turns and wrong voices.

With respect to its contents, exposed over ten chapters, the Mexican Chronicle part of the mythical Foundation of Tenochtitlan to get so far in which Spaniards burst on Mexican soil. The description of this extended period, Hernando de Alvarado reconstructs the traditional customs of Indians mexicas, adorned with ritual beliefs and different - more or less true - feats that mark its legendary past. From the historical point of view, perhaps the most valuable of this chronicle file in your impartiality when it comes to show the serious tensions among the various indigenous peoples, pre-cortesianos, engaged in constant infighting that led to its fragmentation and accentuated its weakness when they wanted to make a common front against the troops of Hernán Cortés.

The true value of this monumental literary legacy that is the Mexican Chronicle was not well liked in Europe until the middle of the 19th century, when Lord Kingsborough English citizen included in volume IX of the Antiquities of Mexico (1830-1848), a translation of the text into the language of Shakespeare. Immediately, French appeared a second version, printed in the Histoire du Mexique (Paris, 1847-49), whose interest necessitated a prompt reprint (1853). In territory populated by Spanish speakers, the work of Hernando de Alvarado did not go through the brochure of printing until 1878, year in which the Mexican publishing house editions Vigil published the first edition of the Chronicle in the Aztec capital. Subsequently, has seen the light on four occasions: 2nd ed., in charge of Mario Mariscal (Mexico: UNAM [Library of the University student], 1943); 3rd ed., with notes of Manuel Orozco and Berra (Mexico: Ed. legend, 1944); 4th ed. (Mexico: Editora Nacional, 1951); 5th ed., also in charge of Orozco and Berra (Mexico: Ed. Porrúa [Col. Biblioteca Porrúa], 1987.)

The chronic mexicayotl.

The manuscript containing the chronic mexicayotl is dated 1609, circumstances that, in the absence of other biographical data, has made it possible to prolong the life of Hernando de Alvarado at least until such date. Written entirely in nahuatl language, it constitutes a genealogical reconstruction of the tenochca aristocracy, with value added - on the Mexican Chronicle - based on the testimonies of first-hand that the own Hernando de Alvarado was collected from mouth of the indigenous elders. From this particular information, the grandson of Moctezuma made an extraordinary historiographic work which basically consisted in comparing such data with the ancient Nahua documents that failed to retrieve, which generated the splendid fruit of a pleasant and well documented reconstruction of life in the territory of the new Spain before the landing of the Pathfinder. To this anthropological and historical attractions of the chronic mexicayotl will be added a literary value added, from the delicious poetic and legendary traditions that Alvarado recovered through the collected testimonies, almost all of them are referring to the mythical Foundation of Tenochtitlan. Thus, this work of the indigenous chronicler becomes one of the main collections of little preserved today nahuatl literature. Currently, there is an interesting palaeographic Edition of the chronic mexicayotl, with its corresponding translation into Spanish, in charge of Adrián Leon (Mexico: UNAM-Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1949).


GARIBAY, Ángel María: History of nahuatl literature (Mexico: Porrúa, 1971).

GONZÁLEZ PEÑA, Carlos: History of Mexican literature (Mexico: Ed. Porrúa, 1984).

MURIA, José María: "Hernando Alvarado Tezozómoc", in pre-Hispanic society and European thought (Mexico: Sep-1970, 1973), pp. 66-73.

J. R. Fernández of cano.