INAH experts seek funds to acquire a piece found in Mexico City’s district of Iztapalapa and thus celebrate the 135th anniversary of the BNAH.
Baltazar Brito Guadarrama, director of the National Library of Anthropology and History (BNAH), works on the study and the possible acquisition of a new pre-Hispanic codex of which there was no news until now, which comes from Iztapalapa and covers the year 1324 to 1611.
It is a screen made of amate paper that measures about six meters in length and that, unlike the Boturini Codex, has color”, reveals to Excelsior Brito Guadarrama, head of the BNAH, which this year celebrates its 135th anniversary.
For now, the piece remains in the vault of the National Museum of Anthropology, Biological, chemical, and photographic analyses are carried out to obtain more information and its possible acquisition is explored, since it would become the third pre-Hispanic codex that the BNAH would have, only after the Colombino and Maya codices.
According to the expert, the library’s collection of codices currently consists of 102 originals (two pre-Hispanic and 100 viceregal) and 98 historical copies.
We are trying to acquire this codex of which there was no news, we have already seen it, I have already reviewed it and it is a genuine codex from the Iztapalapa area”, he points out.
Is it possible to finalize the acquisition? Brito is asked. “As we don’t have resources, we have requested the help of our director (Diego Prieto), who is looking for support so that they do us the favor of buying it and donating it to the BNAH.
Right now I have it in the vault and we are doing studies on it, because to achieve something like this, my word is not enough, so it is necessary for specialists in various areas to analyze it and find no elements to say that the codex is not authentic.
We are already advanced and I would hope that we will break the news soon. Perhaps in a month, we will have the results of the analyses”, he comments.
How many codices do they have in total? “The codices are a very important patrimony of the Mexican people. There should be no more than 550 to 600 codices in the whole world. In Mexico we have almost 200 and, of these, there must be a similar number in the (indigenous) towns, as well as another 100 in France, England, and Austria, which have pre-Hispanic, Mixtec, or Mendocino cultures and, as we know, some of them They sent the king or they did not reach his hands” due to the piracy of the time, he points out.
Shouldn’t all the codices be in Mexico? “If you ask me as director of the BNAH, which has the codices under its protection, I believe that the place where they should be is in our country, because here are the towns that gave birth to them.
In addition, they would promote an important relationship in the field of identity and the reconstruction of historical memory. Unfortunately, in many cases, the abductions occurred from the contact itself. For example, Cortés sent codices to Vienna and one of these could be the Vindobonensis”.
So they should go back to Mexico? “I would prefer that they were here, but it would have to be a reason for conviction, too, and not to fight for them, but to reach a friendly agreement with the countries and institutions that have them.
Because perhaps we can share the fact that they are here and, in this sense, we have two interesting cases, that of Cruz-Badiano and Aubin’s Tonalamatl.
However, Brito Guadarrama accepts that there is currently a new phenomenon around the codices. “It happens that the same indigenous peoples are requesting the Mexican government to help them seek the repatriation of some pieces and, of course, the Mexican State has to act, but not as a lawsuit because I have always said that a toast is better than the smoke of a hundred battles”, he accepts.
A recent case, in this sense, occurred in the community of Coixtlahuaca, which seeks to recover its codex, protected in the United States.
Brito Guadarrama explains that the BNAH —founded in 1888, when Francisco del Paso appointed José María de Ágreda y Sánchez as the first librarian of the collection— not only safeguards codices but more than 600,000 books and 69 collections, a historical newspaper library and photo library, where a convent collection stands out with 25,000 books and jewels, such as eight incunabula, documentation from the second Empire of Maximilian and the diaries of Ignacio Manuel Altamirano.
As well as documents of José María Morelos y Pavón, a copy of the testament of Alonso Bejarano (informant of Bernardino de Sahagún), and the document of La Obediencia, considered the baptismal faith of evangelization in America, which will soon seek its nomination as a declaration as Memory of the World, among many others
“I would prefer that they (the codices) be here, but it would have to be a reason for conviction, too, and not to fight for them”, Baltazar Brito G, director of the BNAH
TWO PIECES RETURNED TO MEXICO
Brito Guadarrama highlights the recovery of two codices in the history of the BNAH.
The first occurred in 1990, when Pope John Paul II returned the Codex de la Cruz-Badiano, after the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Vatican.
It is an important book from the historical point of view since it is the most important treatise on pre-Hispanic medicine that exists”, he comments.
The second recovery was controversial and happened in 1982 when the lawyer José Luis Castañeda stole Aubin’s Tonalamatl Codex from the French National Library (BNF) and led to an international conflict.
There is already a friendly agreement, but it is difficult to tell, however, since the document remains in Mexico and is already in a vault property of INAH, although when we presented it nine years ago, we took the BNF into account.
“Is it wrong how it came out? No, it is not appropriate, but since it entered Mexico, the property acquired a different status from a legal perspective”, Brito Guadarrama concluded.