Sergio Sanchez Santamaria, The Eight Omens of Moctezuma
Mexic-Arte is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of Sergio Sánchez Santamaría’s scratchboard series of the eight omens of Moctezuma. Sergio honors the omens through carefully articulated line work and creativity. You can see the full series on display in the MX 21-Resistance, Reaffirmation & Resilience exhibition or on our online exhibit through CultureConnect.
Sergio Sánchez Santamaría was born in Tlayacapan, Morelos, Mexico in 1976. He is a print maker, muralist, and illustrator. Santamaría studied at the great “La Esmeralda”, Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura, y Grabado in Mexico City, counting among his teachers, Alberto Beltrán, Francisco Moreno Capdevila and Adolfo Mexiac. A master of wood and linocuts, mezzotint and lithography, he works in the tradition of Posada and Mendez but with a modern sensibility and contemporary take on the customs, politics, and people of Mexico.
THE 8 OMENS OF MOCTEZUMA
The Spanish encountered the Aztec Empire not as a bunch of lost cities in the jungle, but as a living, breathing civilization. When the conquistadors were welcomed into the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan by the Emperor Montezuma in 1519, the Aztecs had controlled most of central Mexico by outright subjugation and through various systems of tribute. The Aztec Empire’s influence was felt as far away as Central America and the American Southwest. Many living under Aztec control wanted the empire out of their lives, and when the Spanish arrived they welcomed the Europeans who would help them overthrow the empire.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Aztecs knew their control over central Mexico was somewhat tenuous, and were always aware of the possibility of internal strife causing a political and social collapse. In the days of Montezuma’s reign, at the beginning of the 16th Century and starting some ten years before the arrival of Cortés and his men, Emperor Montezuma was witness to 8 omens which supposedly foretold the end of the empire and his own death. Because of these omens there was an underlying feeling that the Aztecs were doomed, and when the Spanish arrived those who remembered the omens saw their fates as sealed. Whether or not these omens actually occurred is a question for historians and folklorists alike. They are mentioned in The Florentine Codex, a massive 3-volume illustrated ethnographic compilation put together by the Spanish Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún. The codex has over 2,000 illustrations in its 2,400 pages, and in Book 12 of the Codex we find the 8 signs that supposedly predicted the doom to befall the Aztecs. Scholars are divided as to whether or not these omens were made up after the fact to justify the Spanish Conquest in the eyes of the conquered natives and to the rest of the world, or if they really happened.
According to the legends, Montezuma did not dismiss the omens but meditated on them and took them very seriously. In spite of having the best astrological and priestly counsel in the Aztec Empire, the emperor had no idea of what the omens meant or what fate would befall him or his realm. As news of the omens spread throughout the empire, perhaps some people were psychologically prepared for what was to come. Given the brutality experienced by some of the peoples subjugated by the Aztecs, perhaps each omen represented hope instead of doom. Whether good or bad, all who had heard of these omens had a feeling that big changes were on the horizon, and they were right.
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