Map of Cholula

Date: 1581
Owner: Benson Latin American Collection
Source Type: Maps



This 1581 map of Cholula painted for the relaciones geograficas reflects the practice of Nahuatl speaking peoples in central Mexico of creating social settlement maps, charts that portray a city's social hierarchies. Cholula is drawn as a geometric grid surrounding a large central monastery, both of which were created by the mendicant friars after the Spanish conquest, and labeled in the Spanish language. Each of the twenty-four blocks actually represents several smaller blocks, and six of these show large churches dispersed throughout the city. Yet these churches were all located within a few kilometers of each other while Cholula was actually about twelve square kilometers large. The reason for this is that the six churches were meant to represent the city's centers of power, a condensed form of the twelve individual polities that had dominated Cholula prior to Spanish rule. Each church on the map is designated as a cabecera, or head town, and given a number that preserves the order of the twelve former power centers that are shown on older Nahuatl social settlement maps. The map is thus geometrically inaccurate but it reflects both the traditional and contemporary hierarchies of Cholula in a way that blended Spanish and indigenous elements.

See: Mundy, Barbara E. The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaciones Geograficas. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1996.

CITATION: The Relaciones Geograficas Map of Cholula, 1581. Courtesy of the Benson Latin American Collection, the General Libraries, the University of Texas at Austin.