Conceptions of Time and History in New Spain: Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Historia de la nación chichimeca (~1625)


  • Richard Herzog



The historian Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl stood at the crossroads between two worlds in colonial Mexico: Owing to his Aztec and Spanish heritage and Franciscan education he was intimately familiar with both ‘Old’ and ‘New World’ histories, writing in Spanish but using Aztec sources. This article seeks to trace the upheavals in historiography emerging at the turn of the 17th century by means of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicle Historia de la nación chichimeca. Pre-conquest temporal and historical traditions of the Aztecs and Castilians are sketched in order to trace back conceptions of time and history contained in the Historia. Furthermore, the emergence of a group of scholars of indigenous descent in the late 16th century serves as historical background to Fernando de Alva’s ideas. Behind these intellectual developments lies the question of whether the Spanish conquest brought with it the substitution of traditional conceptions of time and history, or rather their transformation into new forms of knowledge production.