UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Recordando los Binnigula'sa' -multiple voices in the Lienzo de Guevea y Petapa Joshua , Schwab


People of the central valley of Oaxaca and Isthmus of Tehuantepec are generally referred to by the Nahuatl term Zapotec, though we call ourselves Binnizá. Although stone sculptures reveal that our people were among the first groups in Mesoamerica to utilize script, few examples of writing by “our ancestors, the binnigula’sa’” survive. One exception is the cartographic history known as the Lienzo de Guevea and Petapa, painted in 1540 in response to a Spanish order for land documentation. As I will show, this historical document is unusual in that it refers to two communities, Santiago Guevea de Humboldt and Santo Domingo Petapa. Both thematically and visually, the Lienzo has been appreciated in two parts. The upper half provides cartographic information, which I argue are the boundaries that define the territory of both Guevea and Petapa. The lower half includes genealogical and tribute information that pertains to the polities of Guevea/Petapa and Tehuantepec. Current research on the Lienzo has been distorted by an overriding focus on information related to the polity of Tehuantepec, because this Lienzo includes the most complete known genealogy of Zapotec rulers, tracing those of Tehuantepec back to their roots in the central valley polity of Zaachila. The importance of this document to the communities of Guevea and Petapa has been investigated only in terms of the circumstances of later copies, not the 1540 original. By looking more closely at all the historical events and genealogical or political relationships depicted on the original Lienzo, it is possible to demonstrate that this document was not designed to legitimate the tributary rights of the Tehuantepec polity before the Spanish. . I acknowledge that the oral histories shared with me by members of the communities of Guevea and Petapa, as well as my community of Rancho Gubiña, have been instrumental in realizing that the Lienzo de Guevea y Petapa encompasses multiple histories and voices. My aim is to recover some of these voices in order to present a reading of this Lienzo that respects the Binnigula’sa’ of both communities of Santiago Guevea de Humboldt and Santo Domingo Petapa.

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