Ana Paula dos Santos Salvat — The City as a Palimpsest and the Layers of Time: The Monoliths as Antiquities and the Political uses of Mexica Artifacts

Mexico City’s power center was installed over the previous Mexico-Tenochtitlan city by the beginning of the 16th century. On the one hand, the Spaniards preserved the urban design and the placement of power buildings, but, on the other hand, most of the Mexica art, architecture, and documentation were destroyed for ideological and religious reasons.
When Mexica monoliths, produced between the 15th and the 16th century, were found under the pavement of the Main Square of Mexico City during its Neoclassic renovation in 1790, they were considered antiquities. This concept, generally attributed to Greco-Roman material culture in the West, was then directed to the not-so-distant production of Native Mesoamericans, expanding the use of the term beyond temporal classification and creating a relation between Mexica and Greco-Roman artifacts. In general lines, this project seeks to understand the relations between art and power in transcultural and transhistorical contexts, relating the urban space with a palimpsest of multiple overlapping writings, intersecting temporalities in political and cultural disputes. It investigates the impact of such conflicts present in the historiography on a people’s memory and identity comprehension and art history writing. The case study explores the uses of particular concepts and material and symbolic attributions in creating meanings that reinforce certain narratives over time and promote a determined way to look at Pre-Columbian culture.

Ana Paula Salvat

Ana Paula Salvat holds bachelor’s degrees in Visual Arts and in Art History, a Specialization in Archives Management, and a Master’s degree in Visual Arts. She is currently a PhD candidate at the Post-Graduation Interunits Program in Aesthetics and Art History of the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Her research investigates the formation of the center of power in Colonial Mexico City from a transcultural perspective. Her work aims to connect art and power, space and time, identity, and memory in different contexts, promoting a contemporary reading of towns from the decolonial approach. This investigation started with a grant from the project “New Art Histories,” coordinated by the University of Zurich and the Federal University of São Paulo, as part of the initiative “Connecting Art Histories,” sponsored by the Getty Foundation. Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, she worked in museums with cataloging, conservation, and collection research. Presently, she is an Associate Scholar at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History, cataloging travel photographs of art and architecture from Brazil and Mexico for a digital art history database.


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