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PCSNY October Lecture – Louise M. Burkhart

October 18, 2019 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

This Tortilla is my Body: The Last Supper in Eighteenth-Century Nahuatl Passion Plays

Louise M. Burkhart
Professor of Anthropology, University at Albany-SUNY

Alonso de Molina, Confessionario mayor, en lengua mexicana y castellana, Mexico: Antonio de Espinosa, 1565, 73r.
(archive.org; John Carter Brown Library, Brown University)


Colonial Nahuatl Passion plays relived the sequence of events from Jesus Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem to his agonizing and bloody death. Given Mesoamerican ritual traditions of deity embodiment and sacrifice, for an Indigenous man to embody Christ created a striking conjuncture between the emotive mysticism of European Passional practices and the world-renewing efflorescences of sacred power precipitated by Mesoamerican rituals.The threat these Passion productions posed to the colonial Church’s project of controlling Indigenous religiosity led, in the eighteenth century, to the confiscation of plays and efforts to suppress the performances. In this talk I focus on one particularly controversial aspect of the plays: the staging of the Last Supper, at which Jesus initiated the consecration of bread and wine at the heart of the Roman Catholic mass and the sacrament of communion. Six eighteenth-century Nahuatl Passions reveal the different strategies employed for this scene, ranging from more daring appropriations of priestly prerogative to more cautious approaches—which, in contrast to Spanish-language plays modeled on the Nahuatl tradition, nevertheless reference the consecration in some manner. The variations indicate that, even as they perpetuated archaic Nahuatl and staged very similar productions, Indigenous dramatists were responding to the surveillance and suspicion jeopardizing their communities’ most elaborate annual religious event.

Friday, October 18, 2019
6 PM in the Lecture Hall
The Institute of Fine Arts
1 East 78th Street

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Registration link coming soon!

Followed by a reception with wine and cheese in the Loeb Room




October 18, 2019
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm


Pre-Columbian Society of New York, Inc.
View Organizer Website


Institute of Fine Arts–NYU
1 East 78th Street
New York, New York 10075
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