Forms of Expression
THE NAHUAS DID NOT lack for means of expressing themselves. All the matters talked about in the previous chapters were authentic, essential expressions of their way of life and manner of dealing with the changing reality about them. Other important vehicles of expression, such as the crafts, have largely escaped the net laid here to capture Nahua patterns. What the present chapter seeks to do is to separate out and examine the postconquest Nahuas' modes of more conscious self-expression, of the type often found in our civilization (at least in more recent times) in the arts, philosophy, scholarship, and journalism. We are restricted perforce to those aspects that have left tangible evidence behind; thus little can be said about dance, as well developed as we know it was both before and after the conquest.
Some genres, such as preconquest calendrical books of days and fates, were entirely lost after the Spaniards came, so far as we know, and others, if they did not disappear, at least largely went underground, including above all the set speeches that, as Sahagún recognized, contained philosophy as well as rhetoric. 1 But postconquest reduction and loss are not the only or even the main problem in the present endeavor. Although the Nahua mind and ours share vast reaches of the intellect and the emotions, they differ in their distribution over a spectrum. One is reminded indeed of the differences in the actual spectrum of colors; it is clear, for example, that Nahuatl coztic, generally translated "yellow," shaded into what we would consider orange and even light red, and the Nahuatl terms in the area of green and blue seem always to point in the direction of turquoise rather than sharply distinguishing the two colors that we see. In activities of the mind, though the Nahuas had well-defined genres, those genres did not divide the various functions as we would. Rarely will a text be found devoted to relatively pure self-expression or pure enjoyment; nor do I take this to be a new facet of postconquest life. Everything the Nahuas said or wrote seemed to have some immediate, pressing, practical, not to say ulterior, purpose; 2 for all their pride in them-