The Telpochcalli in the Ritual Life Cycles of the Nahua World

Saturday, January 8, 2022: 8:50 AM
Rhythms Ballroom 2 (Sheraton New Orleans)
Josefrayn Sanchez Perry, University of Texas at Austin
This paper decolonizes Nahua ritual specialists by using temple and household archeology from central Mexico and Nahuatl-language texts. The paper argues that household ritual specialists from a Late Postclassic system (1200-1521 CE) called the “house of youth” (telpochcalli) were the main sustainers of temple religion, who reconfigured themselves in the early colonial period. Household archeology in central Mexico demonstrates that production facilities for temple material culture, like ceramics, lapidary work, and textiles were located in households across a city-state. Ritual specialists like “rulers of youth” (telpochtlatoque) and “caretakers of the calpolli” (calpixque) streamlined how these items moved from production to market. Conversely, colonial texts like the Florentine Codex (1577), but specifically the Twenty-Six Additions by Bernardino Sahagún and Alonso Vegrano (Ayer MS 1486, Newberry Library), highlight how household systems were equally important to the temple precinct. In the ritual lifecycle of the city-state (xiuhpohualli), household representatives like women and men “masters of youth” (ichpochtiachcauh; tiachcauh) and male and female “youths” (telpochtli; ichpochtli) led processions, danced, sang, and played musical instruments. Because these ritual labors continued to be part of Christian practices, the paper argues that household Nahua ritual specialists maintained continuities with their existing ritual formations. The paper traces the functions of the telpochcalli giving Nahua ritual specialists multi-dimensional characteristics outside of temple religion.