Pedro de Alvarado, Tonatiuh: Reconsidering Apotheosis in Nahua and Highland Maya Narratives of the Spanish Invasion
Abstract Recent scholarship on the Spanish invasion of the New World has brought under scrutiny the historiographic theme of apotheosis—the notion that Indigenous peoples regarded the invaders as gods or godlike beings and that such beliefs influenced their responses. This article examines the question by focusing on Pedro de Alvarado, a leading member of Hernán Cortés’s contingent, who was known as Tonatiuh—a Nahuatl word that designated the sun, the day, and the sun god. Indigenous peoples in Mexico and Guatemala used the name during the invasion, and Nahua, K’iche’, and Kaqchikel authors employed it frequently in later writings that variously hinted at, endorsed, or questioned Alvarado’s associations with the sun god. Rather than an imposition resulting from Spanish teachings, the association of Alvarado with the sun god derived from Mesoamerican beliefs about the rise and fall of successive eras, which provided Indigenous paradigms to explain the Spanish invasion.