Map of Teozacoalco

Date: 1580
Owner: Benson Latin American Collection
Source Type: Maps


This indigenously drawn map is based on the ancient Mesoamerican trope of cartographic histories, charts that displayed a city's founding, dynastic lineage, and/or community boundaries. Teozacoalco, located in a remote area of Oaxaca, did not have as much Spanish cartographic influence, thus this map--painted for the relaciones geograficas questionnaire in 1580--very closely resembles (and may in fact have been copied from) a traditional cartographic history. The different territories within Teozacoalco are identified by forty six logographic place names drawn around the circularly represented city. Each of the smaller towns that composed the city is set apart by a web of rivers within the circle, an idealized projection meant to emphasize the unity and social coherence of the community. The scale of this map, however, becomes smaller as it expands from the center because it was concerned with depicting the community's structure from a subjectively human point of view rather than an objective mathematical one (as in Mercator's projections). On the left hand side of this chart, the artist portrayed three vertical dynastic genealogies where each generation of rulers is represented by a couple facing each other. Although this idealized map of Teozacoalco would have been useless to cartographers in Spain trying to chart their American empire, its emphasis on the community's rich history, importance, and unity was central to Mesoamerican spatial understanding.

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 Teozacoalco, 1580. Courtesy of the Benson Latin American Collection, the General Libraries, the University of Texas at Austin.