Diego Durán

Diego Durán (ca 1537–1588)
Historia de las Yndias de Nueva Espana y Yslas de la Teirra Firme (‘Durán codex’)
Biblioteca Nacional de España, Vit.26-11

Image reproduced by kind permission of the Biblioteca Nacional de España

Diego Durán was born in Seville in around 1537. He was brought as a child by his parents to live at Texcoco in New Spain (Mexico) and later to Mexico City. He entered the Dominican Order in 1556. Fluent in the Aztec language Nahuatl, Durán wrote at the Order’s instruction a series of books describing the religious rituals and myths of the indigenous peoples (Mexicas or Tenocha Aztecs) whom he sought out and questioned about their beliefs and practices. The Book of the gods and rites was written in either 1574 or 1576; The ancient calendar in 1579; and The history of the Aztec-Mexica is dated by scholars to 1581 when Durán was vicar of the convent at Hueyapan. He died seven years later aged fifty-one.

These works were not printed in Durán’s lifetime, but were consulted by other historians such as the Jesuit Juan de Tovar and the Dominican Agustín Dávila Padilla for his Historia which was finished in 1592 and published four years later. Durán’s writings survived only in the so-called Durán codex, the Historia de las Yndias de Nueva Espana y Yslas de la Teirra Firme, (Vit . 24-II in the Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid) until a partial edition was published in 1867 and a full edition in 1880. Durán’s accounts of Aztec customs are now considered highly important by cultural historians, archaeologists and anthropologists.

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