Colonial Spanish America was founded on the conquered remains of two powerful, urbanized societies—the Aztec and the Inka. It was not a quiet past. Across Latin America, the landscape was alive with relics from prehispanic times, and people carried deep memories of pre-conquest history. This was not a quiet past. As late as 1790, this statue, buried with rubble from Aztec temples, was pulled out of the main plaza of Mexico City. At issue in this unit is how people made sense of ever-present pre-Columbian objects and histories, investing them new meanings so that the past would be useful in the present.

Coatlicue, 1792. Antonio León y Gama. New York Public Library, New York
Copyright 2003, Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy
Please credit as: Leibsohn, Dana, and Barbara Mundy, Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520-1820., 2003.