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Stone Replicas: The Iteration and Itinerancy

of Mexican Patrimonio

Sandra Rozental

Universidad Aut onoma


En el 2007, los habitantes de Coatlinchan consagraron una estatua hecha de concreto

al darle los poderes meteorologicos

de una deidad del agua antigua. La figura es una
replica exacta de un monolito prehispanico de 167 toneladas que fue notoriamente
trasladado de Coatlinchan al Museo Nacional de Antropologa en la Ciudad de Mexico
en 1964. Sin embargo, esta no es la primera vez que una replica de la piedra tallada
ha sido transformada en un ente capaz de producir agua: en los anos 60, el estado
mexicano construyo replicas de la efigie en sus proyectos de infraestructura hidraulica.
En este artculo, sostengo que las reproducciones del monolito van de la mano con
como parte de un complejo mas amplio de cosas patrimoniales en
su transformacion
muestro de que manera una formacion

Mexico. Mediante estos casos de reproduccion,

supuestamente disenada para convertir deidades antiguas en objetos de patrimonio

en realidad revitaliza la capacidad de estos objetos de funcionar como vnculos
que anclan y producen localidad y colectividad en Mexico. [localidad, patrimonio,
Mexico, museos, reproducciones, ruinas, santos]

In 2007, the residents of Coatlinchan completed a ritual consecration, investing a
poured-concrete statue with the meteorological powers of an ancient rain deity. The
figure is an exact replica of a monolithic 167-ton pre-Hispanic carving, famously
relocated from Coatlinchan to Mexico Citys National Anthropology Museum in 1964.
This consecrated replica, however, is not the first iteration of the carving constituted
as a powerful being capable of producing water: in the late 1960s, the Mexican State
equipped massive damns with replicas of the stone original. In this article, I argue that
the monoliths multiple reproductions are intrinsic to its production as patrimonio,
and part of a larger complex of Mexican patrimonial things. By examining these cases
The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 331356. ISSN 1935-4932, online ISSN
C 2014 by the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1111/jlca.12099

Stone Replicas


of replication, I unravel the ways in which patrimonio, a formation seemingly meant to

transform ancient deities into singular heritage objects, in fact, revitalizes these objects
potential as vectors anchoring and producing locality and collectivity in contemporary
Mexico. [locality, heritage, Mexico, museums, patrimony, reproductions, ruins, saints]

In March 2007, the residents of San Miguel Coatlinchan, a town located

in the Texcoco municipality, about 35 miles east of Mexico City,1 participated in a
ritual consecration. As the crowd kept respectfully silent, around forty Tlacuaches,2
as the inhabitants of the town are known in the area, donned what they consider
to be pre-Hispanic attire, beat huehuetl drums, and blew into lavishly decorated
conches as they invested a poured-concrete anthropomorphic figure with the
meteorological powers of an ancient rain deity. Looming over the towns main
square as the centerpiece of a circular fountain, the cement monument is a life-size
replica of a monolithic 167-ton pre-Hispanic stone carving dating from the apex of
the Teotihuacan period (roughly A.D. 400500), which most archaeologists have
identified as a representation of the Aztec rain god Tlaloc.3 The statue, which had
for centuries lain half-buried in a ravine as a feature embedded in Coatlinchans
landscape, was relocated to the entrance of Mexico Citys National Anthropology
Museum in 1964 as a public monument standing at the center of a circular fountain
(Figure 1).
The spectacular engineering feat to transport the stone carving on which the
cement replica was modeled was part of Mexicos centripetal policies designed to
concentrate patrimonio, the nations heritage and tangible collective inheritance,
in its assumed rightful place in the museum complex located in the capital
city. The removal of the carving from Coatlinchan was justified by the laws of
patrimonio nacional, which stipulate that all subsoil resources including oil, mineral ores, and archaeological materials are the sole inalienable property of the
Mexican State (Breglia 2006, 2013; Ferry 2005). As Elizabeth Ferry (2005) has
shown, patrimonio does not only function as a set of fixed laws in Mexico, but
also as an idiom employed by a variety of social actors, including the Mexican
State, to guarantee the existence and reproduction of often overlapping and even
competing collectivities over time. In the case of ancient artifacts designated as
patrimonio, this regime also works de facto to determine the appropriate spaces,
custodians, and care needed to safeguard the nations material legacy for future
generations (Breglia 2006). Since the late 19th century, the Mexican State has orchestrated elaborate relocation projects, which have centralized in Mexico Citys
museums any artifacts considered to have been made by the nations ancestors.
Thus, the Coatlinchan monoliths transfer and repurposing as part of the National


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Figure 1 The monolith in front of the National Anthropology Museum, 2011

Anthropology Museums collections in the 1960s was part of a longue duree history
of State-led projects to move artifacts from all over Mexico to the countrys cultural
and political center. Recalling Manuel Gamios work in favor of national consolidation, Forjando Patria (1916), historian Christina Bueno (2010) has argued that
the centripetal trajectories of these ancestral artifacts actually produced the nation
through the process of forjando patrimonio.
The relationship between pre-Hispanic stone carvings such as the ancient
Coatlinchan monolith and the towns chosen patron saint, San Miguel, is also
relevant from a historical perspective. Apparently never finished and left reclining in situ by its carvers in the Teotihuacan period, the pre-Hispanic monolith
was not in fact part of the Aztec-era pantheon adored by the ancestors of todays Tlacuaches. Found cast aside on the outskirts of town where it had remained buried for centuries, it is likely to have been referred to by 19th-century
town priests as a pagan idol of the sort thrown down by colonial extirpators
of idolatry, and replaced by the saint images that presided over churches and
towns. The patron saint of Coatlinchan, San Miguel, the archangel responsible
for casting Satan back to hell, was commonly designated as the patron saint of
the 16th-century indigenous parishes built over indigenous temples. After the
victory of secularizing nationalists following Mexican independence, scientific
scholars of Mexican antiquity were wont to decry the idolatry of the Church and

Stone Replicas


its saint images, while aiming to recuperate the idols of ancient Mexico. These
19th-century scholars found the Coatlinchan monolith and other pre-Hispanic
artifacts to be tangible traces of an ancient civilization, and an alternative, nonSpanish and non-Christian patrimonial anchor for the new genealogy of the
This article focuses on the contradictory and somewhat counterintuitive ways
in which patrimonioa legal regime premised on the inalienability, stasis, originality, uniqueness, and authenticity of certain objects and substancesendures as
a meaningful social category through opposing forces such as mobility, repetition,
and replication. Patrimonio objects, considered to carry and guarantee Mexicos
symbolic and material existence over time, have been cared for and preserved in
heavily regulated ways. And yet, being designated as patrimonio simultaneously
creates the possibility for these objects to endure infinite replications and reinterpretations. In the case of the Coatlinchan monolith, the social potency of its
transformation into patrimonio lies as much in its replicas as in the positioning
of the original as an emblem of Mexicos unique national culture. The monoliths
multiple reproductions both in Coatlinchan and on a broader national scale show
that, despite their often forced relocation to museums, archaeological zones, and
historic buildings because of their status as authentic and singular artifacts, patrimonial items such as the Coatlinchan carving continue to linger, expand, travel,
and multiply in Mexican landscapes.
Having set the stage of the monoliths relocation to the National Anthropology
Museum and analyzed patrimonio as a centralizing and nation-making project, I
will focus on three contexts where replication destabilizes the production of singular objects that simultaneously generate and congeal an abstract sense of national
identity in material form. First, I analyze the multiplication of the monolith as an
index of Mexican modernity in the shape of miniatures and souvenirs that materialize the States ideological project of mestizaje. These miniatures relate to another
kind of replication in the shape of material markers that reinforce the States presence on a national scale, re-instantiating its power to mobilize both people and
things through technological innovation and modernizing infrastructure projects.
I then shift to an ethnography of the replicas that have mushroomed in Coatlinchan, where miniature and life-size reproductions of the absent monolith recall
an older tradition whereby images of the towns patron saint, San Miguel, have
historically produced a sense of locality, demarcating the boundaries of the towns
territory through their multiplication and movement. Indeed, saint images are another kind of human-made likeness of numinous beings whose efficacy is premised
on itinerancy and iteration. Saint images have been at the core of collective forms
of territoriality, property, land tenure, and personhood first in Spain and then in
Latin America where miraculous apparitions and saint images will to move, or


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not, have been central to the foundation and relocation of towns (Abercrombie
1998; Christian 1989; Taylor 2010).
In The Shape of Time (1962), art historian George Kubler argues that the
history of objects should be understood as an open-ended sequence made up of
prime objects and the many re-entrances and reworkings they might inspire in
social life; he calls this their replica mass (1962:39). Kubler argues that objects,
and specifically art objects, have an inherent reproductive power through their
repetition, which is central to how they take shape in social landscapes.4 The
present article uses the example of the Coatlinchan monoliths replica-mass to
extend Kublers argument into the realm of patrimonio, exploring how the efficacy
of things that bind people across time and space rests not only on their unique and
irreplaceable quality as traces of an ancient past, but also on their multiplication and
movement. Kublers theory on art objects potential through infinite sequences of
reproduction or replica mass is also useful in understanding the patrimonialized
monoliths reproduction in Coatlinchan, where centuries of Catholic devotion
have been premised on the multiplication and movement of saint images, each of
which was invested with the powers and efficacy of the specific saint it was carved
to represent.
Through this ethnography of the monoliths replica mass, I foreground the
ways in which iteration, repetition, and replication do not produce a loss of aura,
as Walter Benjamins account of the consequences of technological reproduction
might be imagined to anticipate. Objects are divested of presence in time and
space in order to be made available and accessible to the masses, or in Benjamins
words, to meet the beholder halfway (1968:220). However, Benjamins examples
can inspire a different reading that imagines technological reproduction as both a
positive and transformative force that divests objects of certain forms of aura in
favor of others. For Benjamin, the authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that
is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its
testimony to the history which it has experienced (1968:221). This authenticity
is what is lost; it withers in the age of mechanical reproduction, at the same time
reactivating the reproduced object in each persons own situation outside the
realm of ritual dictated by the aura of the authentic (1968:221). Through technological reproduction, singular objects of religious devotion and aesthetic quality
kept in tightly regulated spaces such as churches and museums that were distant, however close they may be are emancipated and reactivated (1968:222).
Objects become available for resignification and for new forms of reverence. A
cathedral can, thus, be freed from the solemn site of its locale and be received in
the studio of a lover of art (1968:221). Benjamins text can, therefore, be read as
describing the creative possibilities of reproduction that transform configurations
of distance and proximity whereby objects do not lose aura, but rather shed a
certain pretence of authenticity.5 Shifting into the realm of Mexican patrimonio,

Stone Replicas


I posit that patrimonial objects aura in fact rests on multiple and layered processes of reproduction and movement, on a replica mass crafted over time by
a variety of social actors who in each iterationoften through ritual practices
reinstate and reinforce these objects potency in contemporary Mexico.6

Centralizing Patrimonio
The Spanish term patrimonio joins its English equivalents heritage and inheritance, while also indexing the existence of an enduring and deeply hierarchical
Statethe patria.7 In Mexico, the underlying premise of patrimoniounderstood
as a kind of inheritanceis that material possessions, especially ancient artifacts
from pre-Conquest times, but also national resources such as mineral ores and oil,
simultaneously forge and transmit kinship bonds between socially and temporally
distinct social beings, establishing lineages of persons that are made immortal
through property, just as in ancient law (Fustel de Coulanges 1980; Maine 1906;
Morgan 1877). At the same time, patrimonio, like heritage, makes tangible the
ways in which corporate and individual social actors negotiate and lay claims to
the past through the material world (Abu el Haj 2001; Bender 1998; Handler 1988;
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998; Silverman 2002; Yalouri 2001). Nevertheless, patrimonio is a legal property regime and, thus, shapes and mediates relations between
people, material possessions, and the State.
In Mexico, patrimonio laws are mostly contained in Article 27 of the 1917
Constitution promulgated in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution and considered the backbone of the postrevolutionary States translation of its ideological premises into laws governing property and citizenship (Azuela 2011). Much
has been written on the history of patrimonio in Mexico: its roots in medieval
Spanish inheritance and kinship systems and the Spanish kings sovereignty over
the Crowns subjects, lands, and the products of their labor (Molina Enriquez 1909);
the ensuing importance given to subsoil resourcesthe main source of colonial
extraction in Mexicoas both national property and as reproducing the nations
collective personhood (Breglia 2006, 2013; Ferry 2005); and the re-inscription
of patrimonio nacional as the victory of the Revolution over the hacienda system of private property through the creation of collective land tenure assumed to
be based on precolonial forms of corporate ownership (Hale 1968; Kouri n.d.).
Mexican patrimonio has also been analyzed as a binding metaphor that produces the mestizo nation by creating horizontal kinship ties among diverse citizens
through collective forms of property made by national ancestors in pre-Hispanic

times (Castaneda 1996; Lomnitz 2001; Lopez

Caballero 2008; Tenorio Trillo 2009).
Once the Mexican State claims objects as part of the nations patrimonio,
specific government bodies such as the National Institute of Anthropology and


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History (INAH) are charged with caring for these objects unique permanence,
storing them carefully in glass cabinets or displaying them on massive pedestals
in ritualized spaces such as museums and archaeological sites. They are policed
by guards and specialists who in turn enforce specific ways of relating to these
vestiges. Recalling Benjamins insights into objects of art and religious devotions
emplacement as distant, however close (1968:222), visitors to such sites know not
to touch the fragments of Mexicos ancient heritage: guides, curators, and museum
labels remind them to admire the artifacts from a respectful distance as unique
traces left behind for contemporary Mexicans to study. Many of these objects are
in fact made of stonecharacterized by its durability and resistance to the passage
of time. At the entrance of the museum, also engraved in stone, are the words of

former President Adolfo Lopez

Mateos, who built the museum in 1964 as part of
his governments policies to modernize Mexico:
The people of Mexico erect this monument in honor of the admirable preColumbian cultures that blossomed in the regions that are now territories of the
Mexican Republic. Before the vestiges of these cultures, the Mexico of today pays
homage to that indigenous Mexico in whose example it recognizes the qualities of
its national originality.

As this statement makes clear, the Mexican government crafted the museum
as a repository of tangible sources of national identity, anchoring the nations past,
present, and future through their permanence.8
The Coatlinchan monolith was moved to Mexico City as the centerpiece of
the 1964 museum, then under construction. In the original plan, curators had
imagined the carving as the dominant feature of the museums architectural design,
standing in the middle of the central patio that connects the museums galleries,
each of which is devoted to the ancient cultures of a specific region. The patio
and monoliths original location in its design metaphorically placed the Valley
of Mexico as the center of Mexican geography, history, and culture. The statue
eventually ended up on the Paseo de la Reforma, as a public monument and symbol
of the museum on the street; it is an exception among the museums collections,
since it is not physically inside its exhibition or storage spaces, but rather in public
space where it stands on the sidewalk as an urban monument (Rozental, in press).
Despite the monoliths sui generis location on Mexicos patrimonial landscape, the
museums designers and architects emphasized the artifacts quality as patrimonio
through a series of keysa term coined by Erving Goffman (1974) to define
a set of conventions used by social actors to alter the meaning of an activity or
object:9 that is, the monument was placed on a pedestal surrounded by a pool of
water and a museum label that inscribed the carving with date of manufacture
and provenance; the display is supplemented by a scholarly interpretation of its
possible uses during pre-Hispanic times.

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Since its discovery in one of Coatlinchans ravines in the 1880s, archaeologists

and specialists of Mexican antiquity had lamented the monoliths poor state of
conservation. In many of the reports filed by the government authorities charged
with caring for the nations ancient monuments, scholars bemoaned the statues
exposure to the elementsits ravaging by the nearby river that swelled with water
during the rainy season had already heavily eroded the carving (Chavero 1904)as
well as the potentially harmful practices of Coatlinchans residents, who clambered
onto the stone, engraved it with their initials, and made pragmatic use of it as shelter
from the elements. For these scholars, as well as for the government authorities who
eventually undertook its transfer in 1964, the monoliths relocation would ensure
its proper safeguarding and conservation as one of Mexicos precious icons to be
kept for posterity. Eventually, the monolith was moved to the museums entrance
as a unique object, prized by state actors for the durability of its materialstone
and the traces left behind by the nations ancestors who carved it in pre-Hispanic

Multiplying Mexican Modernity

Almost immediately following the transfer and the monoliths physical transformation into part of Mexicos singular patrimonio at the entrance of the National
Anthropology Museum, replicas and miniature versions of the carving began to
appear in a variety of contexts. Just as the statue was fixed in the rightful place
for Mexican heirlooms in the Museum, it became part of a vast array of miniature
tourist souvenirs including other pre-Hispanic monuments and artifacts. These
miniatures both anchor and mobilize patrimonio as a vector of a State-produced
national identity: they assure the actual stones position as the inalienable and immovable property of the Mexican State, just as their portability allows a quintessentially Mexican experience to be sold on street stalls for potential worldwide travel.
These little monoliths range in materials and size: some are tiny refrigerator magnets or keychain holders made out of plastic and resin; others are painted, plaster or
clay decorative items, such as tequila bottles, chess pieces, bookends, and obsidian
paperweights. These portable replicas are sold along with countless miniature ruins from all over Mexico: the Tula Atlantes, pyramid of Chichen Itza, Mayan Chac
Mool, and famous Olmec heads, among others. Through their miniaturization,
these patrimonio objects become accessible to Mexican citizens and foreigners
alike. As a set, they index a unified national culture based on a common past and
tangible heritage, despite the regional differences and conflicts that have characterized the countrys modern history (Figure 2).
Although archaeological souvenirs make patrimonio portablesomething
everyone can purchase, have in ones home, or share on travels to faraway


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Figure 2 Monolith Souvenirs, 2010

landsother less mobile replicas have emerged in various parts of the country. For
is lined with public monuments in the
example, in Tijuana, the Avenida Revolucion
form of replicas of pre-Hispanic monuments from all over the country, including
the Coatlinchan monolith. As Jesse Lerner (2012) argues, together, these statues
recreate a sense of a unified Mexican national identity on the border, far from
the center of Mexican political culture. Nevertheless, the monoliths metamorphosis into patrimonio did not only generate a process of nation-making through
miniaturization and equivalence with other Mexican patrimonio objects and sites.
In places such as Acapulco, a beach resort, and Tlatelolco, one of Mexico Citys
most famous urban developments, replicas of the stone adorn housing projects
and work specifically as indices of Mexicos modern development. In Tlatelolco, a
state-led experiment in social living designed in the 1960s by architect Mario Pani
to modernize Mexicans through urban design, class integration, and an innovative
system of property relations (Flaherty 2011), the replica, only a few feet tall and
made of fiber glass, signals a common heritage as part of the States ideological
project, just as it indigenizes Mexicos avant-garde architecture by juxtaposing the
Teotihuacan carvings abstract aesthetics and the modernist design of the housing
complex. The replica is located in a small square on Insurgentes Norte, facing the
pyramid-shaped Banco Nacional de Obras y Servicios (Banobras) building, also

Stone Replicas


designed by Pani, to house the government body that financed most of Mexicos
urban development and infrastructure projects in recent history. Inaugurated in
1964, the same year as the monoliths transfer, the Tlatelolco complexs inclusion
of a replica of the carving and its position next to the Banobras building index
the modern infrastructure and technological know-how mobilized by the Mexican State to transport the colossal carving, which also subtended its modernizing
policies during the years of the Mexican Miracle.
At the time, the Mexican State and its corps of engineers (many of whom had
participated in the monoliths transport to the museum) equipped massive dams
all over Mexico with large replicas of the carving as monuments to the nations
progress, as well as to guarantee abundant water for their reservoirs. Many of these
dams were located on the border with the United States, geographically removed
from a Mesoamerican context, which transported the emblematic monolith from
the center to the northern periphery. Like the souvenir ruins that generate a sense
of a common national ancestral culture, these replicas connect all of Mexico as
a modern nation through a single patrimonio, but more importantly, through a
common belief in the powers of progress, technology, and public infrastructure.

In 1965, President Lopez

Mateos signed an agreement with former U.S. president Eisenhower to build a massive dam on the MexicoU.S. border. In 1969,
the Presa de la Amistad was inaugurated as part of an attempt to seal the friendly
relations between the two nations. A reproduction of the Coatlinchan monolith,
transferred to the National Museum of Anthropology only five years earlier, was
erected on the site of the dam in Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila. This replica was built
using many stones fixed together to reproduce the monoliths imposing shape and
size. Designed to commemorate the dams completion as well as to fill its reservoir
with water, the replica instantiated and re-enacted the power of the 1964 transfer,
tangibly capturing and solidifying a historically rooted national sense of belonging, as well as giving shape to a modern Mexico connected through technological
progress and state-of-the-art public works (Figure 3).10
The replication of the monolith in Coahuila was not an isolated incident. In
1953, the government began another dam project, the Presa Miguel Hidalgo in
Sinaloa. In 1966, an engineer, Guillermo Garnier Villagran who worked for the
del Rio Fuerte, was commissioned to build a monumental replica of the
Coatlinchan monolith on top of a new wall for this dam. In an interview for a local
magazine, Garnier Villagran explained that during the sculptures construction (it
too was composed of several carved stones fixed together), torrential rains had
halted the walls completion. The engineer in charge of the project called Garnier
in and said: please put a hood on that creature of yours so that it will stop raining.
Garnier obeyed his boss and covered the monument with a huge plastic wrap. To
his surprise, the rain stopped and they were able to complete the construction.11
In both Sinaloa and Coahuila, the replicas of the monolith were designed to signal


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Figure 3 Replica in the Presa de la Amistad, 1970s, vintage postcard, Fotos Fernandez.

pioneering engineering technology projects, yet their makersengineers trained

in science and hard facts did not overlook the fact that the deity they were
replicating was associated with the precious liquid they needed to power Mexicos
electric modernity.12 Nevertheless, the engineers were surprised when their own
monuments to Mexican progress appeared to call off the rain.
Placed on the border, these reproductions, on the liminal space between two
culturesMexico/Latin America and the United Statescould be understood as
condensing all of Mexico and all that is Latin. The Coatlinchan carving was made
multiple by its designation and movement as patrimonio. It was transformed into a

Stone Replicas


replicable representation of Mexicos unified national culture rooted in an ancient

legacy, but also into an instantiation of the power of a modern Statea power
that the effigys rainmaking was evoked to represent. The carvings 1964 transfer
through an engineering feat that mobilized state-of-the-art technology produced
the object as national patrimonio, but in so doing recast an ancient idol as an index
of Mexican modernity, making present not only Mexicos ancestral culture but its
powerful States forward-looking policies.13

Locality and Belonging in Coatlinchan

Replicas of the stone do not only exist as souvenirs representing Mexico for tourist
consumption, or as monuments to Mexicos modernizing State. They have also
appeared in Coatlinchan, where they have different meanings and performative
qualities. Although town residents speak nostalgically about the stones place in
social life before the government removed it, the towns landscape is filled with
the absent stones likenesses: its image is painted on the walls of the towns most
important buildings, the primary school is named Tlaloc, after the deity the carving
allegedly represents, and the local government building is adorned with a painted
monolith under the heading: We are history, we make history.14 Almost every
house contains a miniature of the sculpture, in a variety of materials, shapes, and
sizes: some embellish patios, some are used as paperweights, others are displayed
as decorative items in glass cabinets (Rozental 2011).
The replicas inside family homes are small, portable objects whose lightness and
scale contrast with the absent stones massive, rooted weight. These replicas link
the object to the place it was taken from, to the homes of its people, domesticating
it through miniaturization. The replicas prominence inside these private home
spaces threads the stone back into the local landscape despite, but also because, of
its transformation into national patrimonio. The many small-scale reproductions
that portray the figure standing, sometimes even as the centerpiece of a miniature
fountain, point toward the stones transformation from an ancient ruin that lay
in and was integrated to Coatlinchans landscape into an urban monument and
index of Mexican modernity (Figures 4 and 5). The replicas in Coatlinchan, just
like those in the rest of Mexico, are always bipedal anthropomorphic figures. The
fact that even in Coatlinchan they never portray the monolith as a horizontal
figure, lying on its back as it was before it was removed, is telling: the standing
miniatures replicate the stones new life as a public monument and fountain in
the heart of Mexico City. At the same time, they connect the political space of the
capital, of the center, with its periphery.
These little monoliths began to exist in Coatlinchan following the carvings
removal, as town residents generated direct ties to the nation and to the State,


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Figure 4 Replica in a restaurant in Coatlinchan, 2009

Figure 5 Replica in a housing complex in Coatlinchan, 2009

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precisely because the original was claimed as patrimonio. Yet, they also create a
collective sense of belonging, uniting Tlacuaches around a common past made
physically palpable through the stoneor, more precisely, through its loss. Don
Felix, an elderly man in Coatlinchan, once told me, the stone is the pride of the
town. We all know it is from here when we see it outside the Museum. We know it
is ours, we were here when they took it away. He then underlined the relevance
of the carvings removal, and of the towns patron saint, in the midst of the towns
recent urbanization and population growth:
Now Coatlinchan is full of strangers, many new residents who dont know San
Miguel, the towns patron. They come here with their own saints, their own customs.
They dont even know that the stone was from here. They piss in the fountain where
the replica now stands; they call it Sponge Bob Squarepants or King Kong. 15 For
us, for the people who are really from here, it is the Piedra de los Tecomates16 that
our grandparents knew and told us about. It is ours. It has another significance.

For Don Felix, having witnessed the stones removal, and having learned to live
with its absence somehow constituted the essence of community in the midst of
social and economic processes that were threatening precisely that sense of closeknit proximity that he also associated with the worship of the towns patron saint,
San Miguel. For strangers, the stone could be any other pop culture icon, but for
Tlacuaches, it crystallizes what belonging in Coatlinchan entails; it is part of what
marks one as being part of the community. And like the towns patron San Miguel,
the monoliths replication works as an essential force that connects its residents
temporally and spatially.
There are striking similarities between the material reproduction of stone
replicas and images of San Miguel, both of which come in all shapes, materials,
and sizes. Neither saint images nor monolith replicas are made in Coatlinchan.17
Residents buy the former from shops selling religious images in Mexico Citys
historic district, and the latter from street stalls where miniatures of pre-Hispanic
objects are sold to tourists. One key difference is that the San Miguel figures are
not actual reproductions of either of the San Miguels worshipped in the local
parish; they are part of a wide range of San Miguel representations that exist all
over Mexico and have key features such as armor, a raised sword, and a dragon-like
demon at the saints feet; they are made for home altars devoted to this specific saint
(often in towns where the archangel is the patron saint). Nevertheless, it is not the
labor that goes into the monolith replicas and miniature San Miguels manufacture
that makes them from Coatlinchan, nor, in the case of the saints, their actual
resemblance to local saint images. Rather, it is the ways in which Tlacuaches use
and relate to these objects that transform them into local things.
Although Tlacuaches do not place replicas of the Piedra (the monoliths nickname) on altars, or relate to them as devotional objects as they do representations


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Figure 6 Dona Luz and her altar; photograph by Jesse Lerner, 2012

of San Miguel, their replication of these two distinct types of objects in the towns
physical space mirrors each other as material practices of community-making.
Dona Luz, a woman in her late eighties, once scolded me for placing her replica of
the monolith too close to her altar to the towns patron saint after I had lifted it up
to get a closer look. She remarked: the Piedra is not like San Miguel! We are not pagans here! The Piedra is part of our history, but we are devotees of San Miguelito!
Dona Luz makes a clear distinction between a devotional object sanctioned and
consecrated by the Catholic Church, of which she is a practicing member, and
the replica of the absent stone that she holds dear as an object connecting her to
her community and to its ancestral past. Yet, her unease about the placing of the
replica vis-`a-vis the saint is also telling of a deep-seated anxiety over the material
representations of saints and idols in Mexico, given the countrys colonial history
and ensuing religious syncretism.18 However, the fact that Dona Luz felt a need to
demarcate these objects as being different from each other, paired with their similar copresence in Tlacuache homes, places miniature monoliths and San Miguel
images in parallel social realms, if not in similar ritual worlds (Figure 6).
The priest assigned to the San Miguel parish during my fieldwork in
Coatlinchan, Father Ezequiel, also saw parallels between the replication of San
Miguel images and the absent monoliths replicas. He shared his frustration with
Tlacuaches syncretic religiosity, and specifically with their replication of saint
In Coatlinchan, there isnt one saint image that is the towns patron; there are in
fact two in the church. People here insist that the two images of San Miguel are

Stone Replicas


both the patron and, thus, should be placed on the main altar even though we were
taught in seminary that each church should have a single saint image as its patron.

The history of why San Miguel Coatlinchan has two San Miguel images is
unclear; specialists in Mexican religious art from the INAH, who worked on the
churchs restoration in the early 2000s, dated the smaller one to the late 18th
century and the larger one to a later time period. Father Ezequiel, who did not
know much about the roots of the patrons duplication, somewhat dismissively
continued to describe what he found to be a specific trait of flawed Tlacuache
On San Miguels feast days, both of the San Miguel figures are taken out on procession, one behind the other, and town residents bring all the smaller San Miguelitos
that have been traveling from house to house during the year to the church to be
re-consecrated. People also have San Miguel images of all sizes in their homes, and
they pray to them as if they were all the same. This tendency has increased in the
last few years because San Miguel has become a symbol of Coatlinchan, and people
here are uneasy with outsiders who have come to live here, bringing along their
own practices and devotion to other saints associated with their places of origin.

The priest then emphasized that as a foreigner assigned to this church he

had to respect the towns practices of devotion as local culture, but that the
Churchs teachings were different. He attributed this to Tlacuaches defensive use
of San Miguel as a symbol of the towns identity, rather than to the archangels
position in Catholic teachings or to the specific saints miracle working. He also
attributed the proliferation of saint images in Coatlinchan to a particular moment
of social change brought about by cheap land prices that lured new migrants from
other parts of Mexico to Coatlinchan. These new residents in turn destabilized
Tlacuaches sense of belonging by bringing the worship of their own alien saints
with them.
I asked Father Ezequiel about the replica now standing in the towns main
square, which had been ritually consecrated in 2007. He answered calmly, Well,
it isnt idolatry or paganism or anything like that. The Piedra is part of local
culture and so we respect it and encourage these types of practices. For the priest,
both the saints proliferation in multiple and traveling images and the residents
consecration of the monoliths replica were part of local culturepractices that
strengthened a sense of community, which he did not view as a threat to his parish
work, but also considered to be removed from Catholic doctrine. In fact, he added,
jokingly, here, people are almost as obsessed with the Piedra as with all their many
San Miguels. They are everywhere! Neither Father Ezequiels description of the
saint images nor of the replicas alleged meteorological power in local culture,
nor my own data on the use of these objects in local social life, point toward


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Figure 7 Saint images on parade in front of the monoliths replica, 2009

these two replica masses as working in exactly the same way. However, I want
to emphasize that these two different kinds of objects share a socially, temporally,
and spatially binding quality through their replication (Figure 7).
Perhaps the exception is the 2007 replica, which, unlike all the other reproductions of the monolith in Coatlinchan, is the only one designed as an exact copy
of the stone carving and ritually invested as a devotional object with the ancient
deitys rainmaking powers. In 2007, as the consecration ritual began, one of its
officiants explained that the replica was not in fact a replica at all. He came closer
and whispered, many people here would think I was crazy, or that I had joined
some sort of cult. My informants anxiety over the information he was about to
share was justified in a town where the Catholic majority had violently expelled
Protestant residents in the 1940s for their alleged pagan practices, as well as in the
broader context of Mexicos long-standing colonial history of Catholic campaigns
against indigenous idolatry, which was especially strong in the Central Valleys
surrounding Mexico City where Coatlinchan is located. My interlocutor lowered
his voice and explained that he and the Tlacuache officiants had placed an ancient
obsidian blade found in Coatlinchans lands into the fresh concrete mix before
it hardened: The idea was to give the replica the essence of Coatlinchan, of its
history, of our grandfathers, but the minute the blade touched the stuff, it began
to boil! You wouldnt believe it, but I saw it with my own eyes. He emphasized

Stone Replicas


his amazement, expanding on the contrast between the mundane nature of the
stuff and the supernatural effect that the ancient blade produced; in stressing his
visual witnessing as evidence, his telling recalls narratives of miracle-working saint
images (Bynum 2011; in Mexico, Taylor 2010): I saw the workers making the mix.
It was plain old cement just like the one used to build houses, nothing special.
They used sand from the local riverbeds to make it look like a rock from here, sure,
but nothing that explains what happened!
It was not the cementthe mix of silicates, lime, and water of which the replica
was madethat contained this power. The mezcla, or mix, as cement is colloquially
termed in Spanish, linguistically highlighting its materially composite nature, was
mundane: a prefabricated mixture of materials used to build roads and houses in
the town, which had been enhanced with local sand for aesthetic reasons. Rather,
it was the combination of the cements transformation from liquid matter into
the hardened shape of the dislocated monolith, the inclusion of a fragment of the
towns ancient material culture into the mix, and its metamorphosis following a
series of ritual acts, which together gave the poured-concrete replica the potency
of an ancient deity.
A group of town residents recently mobilized around the towns history and
cultural heritage; the Grupo Cultural, as it was called at the time,19 was in charge
of the ritual. Its members performed a series of tasks to ensure the replica acquired
what they referred to as the essence of Coatlinchan and of the stone original.20
In the posters and flyers printed to advertise the event, the Grupo Cultural referred
to the ritual as a consecration. When I asked one of the groups members about
the use of this term, she explained that it was a way to translate an ancient ritual
into a more familiar form of Catholic practice that all of Coatlinchans residents
could relate to, not just those interested in the communitys ancient roots. To her,
the replicas ritual consecration was not unlike the kinds of rituals performed by
Catholic priests to emancipate objects from their material, worldly existence: A
saint image is just a statue made of wood until a priest blesses it with holy water
or anoints it with oils in a church and then it becomes something else; it becomes
the saint, right? Well, this is similar in a way. Another of the rituals officiants
stepped in: similar, but we dont have pre-Hispanic priests anymore, we just have
the traces of the offerings and rites they performed and that is what we are trying to
recreate.21 As an example of such rites, my interlocutors explained that the replica
had a secret compartment where they had placed pre-Hispanic artifacts found in
their lands as talismans and some of their own blood. The presence of objects
made by local ancestors, and the blood of contemporary Tlacuachesboth as part
of the mezcla and in this compartmentwas intended to invest the figure with
the rainmaking powers of the deity, while also creating a sort of cosubstantiality
between the replica, the locality of Coatlinchan, and its people.


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The 2007 replica also has a different function from the smaller versions that
exist in Coatlinchan because of its location in the towns public space. Many town
residents were critical of it because it was initially planned by the local left-wing
Democratica) government that, wanting to win an
PRD (Partido de la Revolucion
upcoming election, claimed to be righting the wrongs of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Instituticional), the party against whom it was running, and which had
been in power when the monolith was removed from Coatlinchan in 1964. Townspeople also complained that the PRD municipal government had commissioned
a Colombian sculptor to craft the replica, insisting that his status as a foreigner
distanced him from the required essence of Mexicanness required to replicate a
patrimonio object.22 One of the local schoolteachers complained: this is just for
show. If it was for us, it would have been up in the ravine, where the stone originally lay, and it would have been lying on its back, just like when we were kids.
But no, it is standing, and in the middle of a fountain, just like in the Museum.
She continued: they hired a Colombian, and sure, he is talented, but what does
he know about Mexico, about our traditions? About our history? For the teacher,
the replica did not reproduce the stone as an embedded feature of Coatlinchan;
it was a monument to the Mexican States authoritarian and centralist policies
that actually commemorated the towns dispossession. It was a foreign imposition
both because it was planned by the municipal government and ruling party and
because it was manufactured by a Colombian national who had little connection
to local history or even to Mexico as a nation. Another of my informants echoed
the teachers sentiment, telling me that the replica was facing north and not west,
which had been the position the stone carving was pointed toward when it lay in
the ravine. His phrasing in Spanish, esta norteada has a double meaning, signaling both the replicas erroneous physical positioning and orientation (looking
north and far from the site where the carving originally lay), as well as its having
lost its bearings, becoming lost and emotionally disoriented in a foreign place.
Nevertheless, the location of this and other replicas does not determine their
social potency. In the early 1990s, a Coatlinchan resident built a stone replica of the
monolith in the empty ravine. This is not a life-size reproduction: it is significantly
smaller than the original. This replica was made of stone and was carved lying
downthe position of the monolith before its removal. Yet, Tlacuaches do not
have a sense of ownership over this replica nor do they consider it to contain the
essence of Coatlinchan. The members of the Grupo Cultural have frequently
pointed out that it was made by a town resident who was not born in Coatlinchan
and who only lived there for a few years. The carvers status as a foreigner, much
likealthough not as distant asthe Colombian sculptor, was also criticized
because of the replicas positioning. Don Chava, a man in his sixties who works as
a carpenter and is also the towns cronista (local historian), explained: we all know
the stone had a specific orientation, its body pointed east to west, because that is

Stone Replicas


how we bury our dead. Any Tlacuache would have known this. For Chava, the
stones original position in the ravine was like that of any other dead ancestor, and
the replicas maker, because he was not a native Tlacuache, failed to acknowledge
this relationship. Chava also lamented that the carver had made the replica with a
pink stone from Hidalgo, a nearby state. As such it is a foreign material, unlike the
deep gray basaltic boulders common in Coatlinchan. Like Don Chava, most town
residents see this replica, located in the right place in the ravine but devoid of any
trace of locality, as another foreign imposition.
The Tlacuaches who performed the 2007 ritual consecration of the pouredconcrete replica that stands in the towns main plaza hoped to reclaim the monument and divest it of its original political goals, foreign manufacture, and unhappy positioning by investing it with the essence of Coatlinchan. The ritual was
created to make this poured-concrete iteration equivalent to, and able to take on
the same powers as, the deity represented by the carving outside the museum.
To the rituals officiants, the replica was no longer a copy, a representation, but
contained the essence of the original carving as well as of the ancient deity. The
rituals success can be measured by the fact that neo-Aztec dancers from all over
the Valley of Mexico, as well as from Coatlinchan, periodically come to perform
rain petition ceremonies at the foot of the replica.
There is also a linguistic slippage that signals the replicas successful metamorphosis: people in Coatlinchan call the cement replica la Piedra, the stone,
as they do the original carving. But the transformation does not only concern
the objects discursive cosubstantiality with its original. One of the construction
workers on the project, who has lived most of his life in Coatlinchan, even though
he was not born there, explained: first of all, this one is here and the original is all the way in Mexico City, but more importantly, this one is even more
original than the original! This one is more authentic than the one at the museum! For Juan Francisco, the replicas location in Coatlinchan, the place where
the stone was originally made and from which it was then extracted, transformed
it into something authentic. He explained further: its essence is from here and
it was made by the labor of people from here, but more importantly, we did
not include all the graffiti that is on the stone in the Museum. Juan Francisco
continued: letters were brought here by Spaniards, so in a way, we made the
stone just like it would have looked before the conquest. That is another reason why it is more authentic, more real than the real one. For him, Tlacuaches
transformed the replica into something profoundly local through ritual, and he
and the Colombian sculptor, who are not native Tlacuaches, contributed to its
authentication by erasing all contemporary traces and marks made on the stone
over the years, so that the reproduction in a sense reversed or at least rewound
Mexicos colonial history.


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Regardless of the proliferation of monolith replicas in Coatlinchan, and its residents ritual investment of the 2007 copy with the town and the originals essence,
some Tlacuaches emphasize that no matter how perfect and indistinguishable from
the original, and no matter how many replicas and images of the monolith exist
in their town, no replica or set of replicas fills the void produced by the monoliths removal. As Don Chava observed, replicas are like photographs of dead
people, they never really make present the person they portray. Recalling James
T. Siegels (1983) work on the circulation of photographs of corpses and funerals
in Java, for Chava, replicasanother form of visual reproductiondo not make
the stone present; rather, like images of dead bodies, they point to irreversible
absence, freezing time and erasing the memories of their subject as part of social
life.23 Nevertheless, in Coatlinchan, replicas of the absent stone are being mobilized by town residents not as representations of something that is no longer there
or indices of social death, butmuch like Jennifer Deger has argued regarding
the social practices surrounding the materiality of photographs of the dead in
Australia (2006)as present, tangible, and powerful vectors of connection and
belonging. Don Chavas analogy between the stones replicas and photographs of
dead ancestors marks the reproduction of the Piedras material likenesses perhaps
not as a form of making the stone present, but certainly as a generative force of
belonging in Coatlinchan. Thus, although Tlacuaches keep replicas of the stone
and San Miguel devotional figures in separate realms, their iterations and itinerancy in Coatlinchans social landscape work in similar ways, providing a material
representation of residents temporally grounded belonging to territory.
By examining the replication of this Mexican patrimonial object following its
transfer to the National Museum of Anthropology, this article has shown the ways
in which patrimonio, a regime meant to transform ancient idols into fixed, singular,
and authentic heritage objects, in fact revitalizes these objects potential as mobile
and infinitely replicable material instantiations that both anchor and reproduce
collectivities. This is also what the replicas in Coatlinchan and the replicas in the
rest of Mexico have in common: their movement and multiplication produce and
regenerate collective forms of belonging, whether to the modern Mexican State and
its forward-looking policies, or to San Miguel Coatlinchan, a small town in central
Mexico that is currently experiencing demographic flux and cultural change. These
replicas and the social practices that exist around them in Coatlinchan and beyond
show that the State and its engineers participated in transforming the stone into an
index of modern Mexico that could be transplanted and re-instantiated all over the
country. In so doing, they also activated the monoliths potential as a powerful force
of community-making in Coatlinchan. As the products of modern processes of
State-making, the stone and its replica mass have become capable of connecting

Stone Replicas


the periphery and the center, and Coatlinchans contemporary inhabitants to the
monoliths ancient, long-dead makers whose ruins lie beneath their feet.
My research was funded through a Henry M. MacCracken Fellowship from New
York University, a Tinker Summer Travel Grant, Research Grants from the Center
of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU, and a Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant. An Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/American
Council of Learned Societies Early Career Fellowship, an honorary fellowship at
NYUs Humanities Initiative, and a postdoctoral fellowship funded by Mexicos
National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) hosted by the Universidad
Iberoamericana provided time and space to write and a rich intellectual community of interlocutors. I am indebted to Thomas Abercrombie, Miruna Achim,
Christopher M. Fraga, Jennifer Josten, Richard Kernaghan, Jason Ramsey, and
Sabra Thorner who read and commented on drafts of this article, as well as to
the members of the panel Patrimony and its Iteration: Ruins, Relics and Reproductions in Contemporary Latin America and our discussant John F. Collins at
the 2012 American Anthropological Association Meetings, where I presented the
paper that this article grew out of. I also thank the anonymous reviewers from the
Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology whose suggestions allowed
me to refine my arguments. All translations, as well as the photographs included
in this article, are of my authorship unless otherwise noted.

have conducted fieldwork in Coatlinchan since 2005, during several research trips and a longterm stay from 2008 to 2009 for my dissertation project. I continue to go to Coatlinchan on a fairly
regular basis and am in touch with residents through phone calls, e-mail, and social media.
2 A tlacuache is an opossum, a small marsupial native to the Americas. Residents from the towns
surrounding Coatlinchan have nicknames, many of which relate to animals. Those from San Pablo, for
example, are called guajolotes (turkeys), and those from San Bernardino, ranas (frogs). I have written
elsewhere about the ways people in Coatlinchan explain their nickname (Rozental 2012).
3 Although most archaeological publications discuss the carving as a representation of the Aztec
male rain god and the figure is popularly known as Tlaloc, the identity, and specifically the gender, of
the deity that the carving represents has been debated since its late 19th-century discovery by scholars
of Mexican antiquity; Tlalocs female counterpart, the goddess of rivers and lakes, Chalchiuhtlicue, has
also been posited. The debate continues (see Rozental 2008), although Coatlinchan residents believe
that the carving is femaleChalchihuitlicue or La Diosa del Agua.
4 For Kubler (1962), these sequences comprise prime objects and their repetitions over time: The
replica-mass resembles certain habits of popular speech, as when a phrase is spoken upon the stage or
in a film, and repeated in millions of utterances, becomes a part of the language of a generation and in
time a dated cliche (39). Furthermore, It is as if things generated other things in their own images


J ournal of L atin A merican and C aribbean A nthropology

by human intermediaries captivated with those possibilities of sequence and progression (Kubler
5 I am very grateful to Richard Kernaghan for his helpful comments on Benjamins account of
aura and the ways in which technological reproduction produces new configurations of proximity
and distance, rather than loss.
6 Other scholars have engaged with Benjamins argument along similar lines (see Bynum 2011;
Comaroff and Comaroff 2009; Freedberg 1989; Geismar 2005; Pinney 1997, 2004).
7 Hence, my preference for the Spanish over its English gloss. The prevalence of the term patria over
nacion in Spanish America is at the core of Claudio Lomnitzs (2001) critique of Benedict Andersons
Imagined Communities (1991) whereby nations exist as horizontal formations based on fraternal
8 I use anchor in reference to Nancy Munns use of anchorage as a way to describe the ways
certain objects and features of landscape produce aboriginal subjectivities in Australia. Munn shows how
these transformations of subjects into objects bridge the gap between the self and other selves, country
and persons, ancestors and human beings as a mechanism of socialization through identification
9 Erving Goffman uses keys in his work on frame analysisdefined as the set of conventions by
which a given activity, one already meaningful in terms of some primary framework, is transformed
by the participants to be something quite else (1974: 4344).
10 For more on the Coahuila dam and the Tlaloc monument, see Maldonado Ortz (1993).
11 For more on the Tlaloc replica in El Fuerte, Sinaloa, and the engineers testimony, see Cronicas
del Zuaque (2009:910).
12 For a study of the Lopez

Mateos regimes hydraulic imaginary and its ensuing investment in

water-related infrastructure and dams, see Colin Varela (1964). Varela equates ancient Mexicos devotion
to the water deity Tlaloc and the countrys contemporary hydraulic infrastructure development projects:
In contemporary Mexico, the monuments built in honor of Tlaloc have become gigantic structures
that rise proudly to dominate the fury of water and force it to yield to the will of men (1964:10).
13 In the 1970s, a cartoon (by Mexican comedian Cantinflas in which he personified the animated
character Amigo) featured the effigys rain-making powers as a defense mechanism against the United
States. In the animation, Amigo reanimates stone pre-Hispanic deities, including the Coatlinchan
monolith, and encourages them to use their powers to teach an incredulous and overly rational
American tourist a lesson. See = cGQ93wRapI.
14 I have written elsewhere about the performative work of the statement We are history, we make
history as it appears in Coatlinchan in various contexts: on the walls of local government offices and
towns school, and in publications, as well as on web pages by town residents who use it as a motto of
collective personhood anchored in an ancestral past made tangible in pre-Hispanic remains including,
by not solely, the monolith now located outside the National Anthropology Museum (Rozental 2012).
15 The comparison of the monolith to both of these pop culture figures is common in Coatlinchan.
For a visual rendering of the resemblance of the Coatlinchan replica to Sponge Bob Squarepants, see
Jesse Lerner and my film The Absent Stone (2013).
16 The monolithic carving was named after the two rows of orifices, or tecomates, that line one of
its most prominent and well-preserved features. Tecomate is the Nahuatl term for orifice or vessel.
17 Only a few Tlacuaches actually make monolith replicas, but this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Only three or four residents are currently making them, mostly out of resin. They sell them
to locals and visitors at a yearly market organized by the same group of Tlacuaches who are working
to reinstate Coatlinchans pre-Hispanic glory and who performed the replicas consecration ritual in

Stone Replicas


18 The

Catholic Churchs distrust of images and proliferation of devotional images as possible

vectors of idolatry is not a new phenomenon nor is it confined to Mexicos colonial legacy. It has been
at the heart of theological debates in Europe since medieval times (see Bynum 2011:3761).
19 Not long after the making and consecration of the monoliths replica in 2007, an event that
brought together many different groups and actors interested in the towns history, the Grupo Culturals
members split into several competing groups. The Calpulli Macoyolotzin was the first to split from
the original Grupo Cultural. Recently, the Calpulli has also split into two different groups. From its
original 40 members largely mobilized by the local municipal governments project to build a replica
of the monolith in Coatlinchans main square, the Grupo Cultural now has only 3 active members.
20 This ritual was designed by a group of residents who over the last few years began performing
ceremonies following the pre-Hispanic ritual calendar. The ritual elements were choreographed by the
groups members based on their readings of academic and nonacademic materials on the pre-Hispanic
past, as well as consultations with teachers and ritual officiants from other groups of neo-Aztec dancers
formed around La Mexicanidad in various localities in the Valley of Mexico (see Rozental 2012). For
more on the history of La Mexicanidad as a movement, see Gonzalez Torres (2000) and De la Pena
Martnez (2002).
21 During my fieldwork, I understood that the Grupo Culturals members looked for those traces
in a number of sources. They read books about the pre-Hispanic past published by historians and
archaeologists and were constantly looking at the new data unearthed by the latter regarding Aztec
culture. They did not merely turn to secondary sources; they also read and interpreted pre-Hispanic
and colonial codices and the material culture they found in Coatlinchans lands.
22 Oscar Ramrez Quintero, a Columbian national who arrived in Mexico many years ago and
settled in the Texcoco region, was hired by the PRD government to build a series of monuments in
public plazas throughout the municipality. In addition to the Coatlinchan replica, in 2009 he designed
a figure of Zapata on horseback for another town in the area. His most recent work is a sculpture of
Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Camilo Cienfuegos cast in bronze for a public square in Texcoco and
for the Cuban embassy in Mexico City. His most recent sculpture was commissioned by Coatlinchans
local government as a sphinx to welcome visitors to Coatlinchan. It was built on the highway leading
up to the town and unveiled in March 2014.
23 Siegel explains that A body devoid of life remains as it is. Rather than being unique to the
moment in which the picture was taken, the same condition of the body continues after the picture
was taken. There seems to be nothing outside the picture; nothing more to the corpse than what is
visible. The effect is one of immunity to changes of time. When that is the case, the person is no longer
the person as experienced and held in memory but the person as dead, that is, fixed. Javanese funeral
photography thus operates against memory; it is the person as image, and not the person connected
with memories of him, that survives (1983:3).

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