Remembering the 500th Anniversary of the Conquest of Mexico

AHA Session 161
Conference on Latin American History 34
Sunday, January 5, 2020: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Central Park West (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)
John Schwaller, State University of New York, University at Albany
Conquest and Mestizaje: On the Groundless Foundations of a Myth
Luis Fernando Granados, Universidad Veracruzana
La Reconquista de México: Postindependence Revisionist History
Kevin Terraciano, University of California, Los Angeles
John Schwaller, State University of New York, University at Albany

Session Abstract

In 2019 – 2021, we will be remembering the Quincentenary of the Spanish invasion and military take-over of the region that we know as Mexico. Traditionally this even has been known as the “Conquest of Mexico.” Since the mid-1970s, however, the study of this event has undergone a dramatic revision. The natives, previously known as the Aztec have been recognized according to the name they had for themselves, the Mexica. Their language, Nahuatl, has been a focus of scholarly attention for some fifty years. In recent years incisive works such as Matthew Restall’s Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest have enriched the field. Moreover there are several editions of translations of important narratives of the conquest, and several score of studies have explored the participation of hitherto ignored groups in the conflict, studying the role of native auxiliaries, women, persons of color, and even the “foot soldiers” of the expeditions. This new focus conforms what is increasingly called the “New Conquest History.” This orientation no longer focuses on the actions of a few Spanish leaders, no longer is celebratory of a European mission, but rather looks closely at all sides and aspects of the conflict. As we recognize the five-hundredth anniversary, it is essential that we stop to evaluate our understanding and to plot a course for future research. This panel will attempt to explore the most important issues of the Spanish – Mexica War to guide the direction and terminology that we might use moving forward. We propose to abolish the term “Conquest of Mexico” in favor of the Spanish-Mexica War. We wish to restore the combatants to their proper role, taking the spotlight off of the leaders and looking at the participants. We propose to better understand all the dimension of the conflict: from fatalities, to pestilence, to the introduction of new species of animals, diseases, and foodstuffs, and the ultimate synthesis of two cultures that gave rise to much of modern Mexico.
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