Spanish "Gods"

Richard Haly Richard.Haly at
Mon Jan 24 06:40:34 UTC 2000

> The entire
> "Cortes-Quetzalcoatl" scenario appears only in the later accounts. While
> it is fairly clear that Nahuas applied the term "teotl" to the Spanish
> early on, it is also clear that the Spanish thought they were being called
> "gods" and that they relished the idea, despite the fact that the Nahuas
> never revered them as gods. To pretend that identifying "whites" as gods
> is a generic "native" reaction to "superior strangers" is arguably racist.>>

The problem with thinking that Nahuas considered Spaniards to be gods
resides not in Nahua "naivete" nor in Spanish presumption but in our own
unexamined assumptions of what gods are. If we go back to what Nahuas called
Spaniards we find teotl and we also find that they spoke of their own rulers
using the same term. The issue is  not one of deifying Spaniards but of
humanizing "gods." What is teotl? Recall that commoners could not look
directly at Moteuczomah just as they could not look directly at the sun. Too
much tonalli (radiance). They would be blinded. It is lots more productive
to think of both Nahua rulers and Spaniards as these sort of man-gods.

What I don't understand are all these stereotypical interpretations on
either side. Perhaps it's time to again trot out a quote that appears every
so often here: Walt Kelley (creator of Pogo): "We have met the enemy and he
is us."

Richard Haly

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