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Antonio Valeriano
Antonio valeriano.jpg
As depicted in the Aubin Codex.
Judge-governor of San Juan Tenochtitlan
In office
Preceded by Francisco Jiménez
Succeeded by Gerónimo López
Judge-governor of Azcapotzalco
In office
1565 – ?
Personal details
Born ca. 1531
Died 1605
Nationality Novohispanic

Antonio Valeriano (his Indian name is unknown) was among the first – and was certainly the most illustrious – of the Indians to assimilate the dominant Spanish culture in the first decades after the Conquest of New Spain.[1] Although a noble birth is disputed, he married into the family of Moctezuma and rose to the position of juez-gobernador (administrator of an Indian district) first of Azcapotzalco (his home town) and then of San Juan Tenochtitlan, which latter post he held until some time in the 1590's.[2] Among his intellectual accomplishments, he was renowned as a linguist and for the major role he played in assisting fray Bernardino de Sahagún in the latter's extensive project of collecting and recording information about the fast-vanishing indigenous cultures. Sahagún described him as "el principal y más sabio" (the main and most learned) of his native collaborators.[3] Valeriano also taught at the prestigious Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco at which he had studied, and he taught Nahuatl to Franciscan friars, including the future historian fray Juan de Torquemada who praised his various skills.[4] No less notable is his presumed authorship of the Nican Mopohua, a masterpiece of literary Nahuatl and a core text in the development of the tradition of the Marian apparitions to Juan Diego at Tepeyac which initiated the celebrated cult of Our Lady of Guadalupe.[5] He died in 1605 and was accorded an imposing funeral, the details of which were recorded by Juan de Torquemada, who attended them.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

There is no record of Valeriano's birth, but Sahagún, Torquemada and Juan Bautista all assert that his place of origin was Azcaputzalco.[7] He was one of the first students at the prestigious Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco founded by the civil authorities with the cooperation of Juan de Zumárraga, the first bishop of México, and of the Franciscan missionaries who initially ran it. The institution was founded specifically for the education of the sons of caciques and other Indian notables. Although the foundation charter was not granted until 1536 when new premises (funded by viceroy Mendoza) were erected adjacent to the convent of Santiago at Tlatelolco, the College had opened to pupils in 1533 at the convent of San Francisco in Mexico City. Boys were accepted from as early as their eighth year, from which it is deduced that Valeriano was born around 1525, although other dates are also credited.[8]

It has been said that the College was founded for the purpose of training young Indian boys for the Catholic priesthood, which, if true, would mean that Valeriano was initially destined for the Church, but scholars are not in agreement that the College was founded with this intent.[9] After graduating, he taught both at the College and at the convent of Santiago.[10]



His skill as linguist and stylist (he was a master not only of Nahuatl but also of Spanish and Latin) was applauded by Francisco Cervantes de Salazar, Professor of Rhetoric at the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico in a work published in 1554, and by the Franciscan historian Juan de Torquemada in a work published in 1615.[11]

Literary and scholarly[edit]

Collaborator with Sahagún[edit]

Contested authorship of the Nican mopohua[edit]

Other works[edit]

Public appointments[edit]



Legal proceedings which had been initiated by the guardian of the heirs of a wealthy female merchant (una pochteca acaudalada) against Doña María Coatonal, niece of Don Diego Mendoza de Austria Moctezuma (one of the most famous colonial governors of Santiago Tlatelolco), came for adjudication before Don Diego's father, Don Juan de Austria, who was, at that time (1588), governor of Tlatelolco. Don Juan found in favour of the plaintiff but eventually, after much complex litigation, the Real Audiencia remitted the case to Valeriano, as governor of México, who found in favour of the defendant, Doña María Coatonal.[12]



  1. ^ Other collaborators in the intellectual activity of the Franciscans are named by, among others, fray Sahagún, as noted below
  2. ^ Tezozomoc (Crónica Mexicoyatl under 1573) specifically denies that Valeriano, his brother-in-law, was noble, but some modern historians have found this hard to reconcile with Valeriano's privileged education, marriage into the élite of Aztec nobility, and occupation of the premier political position available to an Indian in New Spain. See Castañeda de la Paz who argues for noble birth. Compare Karttunen, p. 113, who accepts a late d.o.b. and commoner status for Valeriano
  3. ^ Sahagún, Lib. 2, f.2 (prologue)
  4. ^ Monarquía indiana, Lib. V, cap. 10, and Lib. XV, cap. 43
  5. ^ León-Portilla (2000) and review of same by Rodrígo Baracs
  6. ^ Monarquía indiana, Lib. XV, cap. 43, quoted in an English translation by Brading, p.92 (giving an incorrect source reference in his footnote, however)
  7. ^ Sahagún, HGCNE, Lib. II, prólogo; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, Lib. XV, cap. 43; Juan Bautista, Sermonario mexicano, prólogo
  8. ^ For the chronology and functioning of the Colegio, see Ascensión H. de León-Portilla, pp. 9-17. The consensus among modern historians is for a date of birth in the range 1520-1530; Miguel León-Portilla suggests 1524. Ernesto de la Torre Villar says 1522-1526, possibly 1525, in his review of Tonantzin-Guadalupe, Estudios de cultura nahuatl, vol.34 (2003), pp. 529-535, at p. 532
  9. ^ The assertion appears in F. Borgia Steck's book, El Primer Colegio de America: Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco (Mexico, 1944), p. 25 and has been repeated (without any source reference) by, e.g., Jacqueline Durand-Forest (1978, in a review in Journal de la Société des Américanistes, Volume 65, Num. 1 p. 265 - 269 at p. 266); Sarah Cline (1993 in her article, "The Spiritual Conquest Reexamined: Baptism and Christian Marriage in Early Sixteenth-Century Mexico" in The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 73, No. 3, pp. 453-480, at p. 478, note. 92); and Brading, pp. 43f. The claim had previously been dismissed out of hand by Estarellas (pp. 236f.) on the ground that, at the time of the foundation, both the colonial authorities (specifically the Viceroy Mendoza, whom he quotes to this effect) and the Franciscans, considered the Indians not to be at a sufficient cultural and intellectual level to receive sacred orders – and indeed, no collegians were ever ordained . The first ordination of an Indian priest in Mexico occurred in 1572 (a son of the last king of Michoacan), see Estarellas, p. 241 with note 33, citing the ecclesiastical history of Fr. Mariano Cuevas (1922)
  10. ^ Cervantes de Salazar, p. ; Mendieta, Lib. 4, cap.15 ; Juan de Torquemada, Lib. V, cap. 10, Lib. XV, cap. 43
  11. ^ aliquot Dialogi, p. 276; Monarquía indiana, Bk. 5, capp. 176f., quoted in Brading, p. 92
  12. ^ Vargas Betancourt, paras. 15-19


Primary Sources[edit]

  • Cervantes de Salazar, Francisco (1554). "Civitas Mexicus interior". ad Ludovici Vivis Valentini exercitationem aliquot Dialogi. México. 
  • Mendieta, Juan de. Historia eclesiástica. 
  • Sahagún, Bernardino de. Coloquios. 
  • Torquemada, Juan de (1615). Monarquía indiana. Seville, Spain. 

Secondary Sources[edit]

  • Brading, D. A. (2001). Mexican Phoenix: Our Lady of Guadalupe: Image and Tradition Across Five Centuries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80131-1. OCLC 44868981. 
  • Castañeda de la Paz, María (2011). "Historia de una casa real. Origen y ocaso del linaje gobernante en México-Tenochtitlan". Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [online review]. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  • Estarellas, Juan (1962). "The College of Tlatelolco and the Problem of Higher Education for Indians in 16th Century Mexico". History of Education Quarterly. Vol. 2, No. 4 (Dec., 1962): 234–243. 
  • Karttunen, Frances (1995). "From Courtyard to the Seat of Government: The Career of Antonio Valeriano, Nahua Colleague of Bernardino de Sahagún". Amerindia. 19/20: pp. 113–120. 
  • León-Portilla, Ascensión H. de (1988). Tepuztlahcuilolli, impresos en náhuatl: historia y bibliografía". México: UNAM. 
  • León-Portilla, Miguel (2000). Tonantzin Guadalupe. Pensamiento nahuatl y mensaje cristiano en el Nican Mopohua. México: Colegio Nacional. ISBN 968-16-6209-1. 
  • Sousa, Lisa, Stafford Poole and James Lockhart edd. and trans. (1998). The Story of Guadalupe (Nahuatl Studies Series, Number 5). Stanford CA: Stanford University Press. 
  • Traslosheros, Jorge E. (2009). "Guadalupan Voices in the History of Mexico". Presentation to Marian Congress. 6–8 August, 2009, Phoenix, Arizona. Retrieved 21 December 2013.