Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Political Science

Major Professor

E. Christian Wells, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Karla L. Davis-Salazar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mario Ortiz, Ph.D.


Nahua, Ethnohistory, Art history, Codex, Mexico


This thesis examines the relationship between the imagery and glosses displayed on folios from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, the Codex Magliabechiano, and the Codex Ixtlilxochitl through the application of Leon Festingers concept of cognitive dissonance in order to introduce an alternative approach to the study of codices as points of culture contact. The work analyzes the ways in which this psychological condition manifested itself in post-contact codex production as a result of sixteenth century political and social circumstances.

Festinger (1957:14) identifies the existence of cultural mores as a source of potential dissonance between culturally specific consonant elements. According to this idea, a culture may dictate the acceptance of certain actions, ideas, or beliefs and the rejection of others. Thus, at places of cultural confrontation, dissonance may result as each group relies upon authorized referents to deal with the introduction of new information. Among surviving post-contact manuscripts, these three codices contain folios with both pictorial and textual descriptions of annual Nahua pre-contact festivals and their corresponding deities. This particular group of codices allows comparisons and cross-references to be made among three different interpretations of the same feasts. Each manuscript presents a unique visual and alphabetic explanation of each festivals deities and celebratory activities created at different points during the sixteenth century. According to Festingers concept, the divergent descriptions of the same festivals found among these folios illustrate my position that the discrepancies came from inclinations on both sides to reach levels of consonance despite the unfamiliar circumstances of culture contact.

This thesis asserts that the imagery and annotations associated with each festival became outlets for expressions of familiar forms and ideas. By locating these codices within the dynamic atmosphere of the early post-contact period, based upon their estimated dates of production, the discrepancies between the imagery and glosses serve as examples of dissonance resulting from larger sixteenth-century cultural frameworks. The disruption and psychological discomfort experienced by natives and Europeans by Spains pressure to colonize and Christianize its new territory directly affected the visual organization of early colonial codices and the selective display of information presented in the folios.