Jesús Barrientos

University of Puebla, Mexico


The Renaissance letters of Mesoamerican scribes in sixteenth century New Spain

The Spanish colonization of America marked a milestone that during the sixteenth, and at least until the eighteenth century, would become a cultural compass on both sides of the Atlantic with obvious ideological effects on every party involved. Although Spaniards were in-charge of exploring American territories, they were not necessarily responsible for the education of the inhabitants in their path. The work of evangelization covered this aspect where Franciscan and Dominican missionaries, coming from Italy and France respectively, were in-charge of introducing the Latin alphabet to the natives who would later become scribes. This started a cultural symbiosis, which we must consider as the immediate antecedent of current Mexican culture. It is noteworthy that indigenous people who used languages such as Nahua, Otomi, Totonaca, and Maya had to learn Castilian Spanish for everyday use and some even learnt how to read and write Latin. These polyglot men were able to combine their own pictorial and pictographic traditions with the new elements taught by instructors educated in French and Italian traditions. This research presents evidence of early New Spain codices from the sixteenth century, with pre-hispanic pictography accompanied by text written in Latin letters.


Jesús Barrientos Mora is Professor and Associate Researcher at the University of Puebla (Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla). He was a 2014 Elsevier Fellow at the Leiden University Library Special Collections. He is the author of Legado de los Elzevir (BUAP, 2015). His work as type designer has been awarded and published in Latin America, Spain, Germany, USA and Indonesia, with clients in England, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. He is Mexico’s Country Delegate for the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) and he is a member of the Type Directors Club. He has run El Hábitat Creativo art and design cluster since 2005.