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Tongues of FireLanguage and Evangelization in Colonial Mexico$
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Nancy Farriss

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190884109

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190884109.001.0001

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Signs and Gestures

Signs and Gestures

(p.11) Chapter 1 Signs and Gestures
Tongues of Fire

Nancy Farriss

Oxford University Press

Early contact between native peoples and Spanish explorers, conquistadors, and missionaries was mediated by signs and gestures with mixed success. Visual symbols by themselves often conveyed the wrong message or none at all. Religious iconography would occupy a central place in the devotional life of the Mexican church. But from the first encounters with Caribbean islanders through the use of images of the Virgin Mary to Christianize pagan space, to the experiments with pictorial catechisms and sermons illustrated by scenes of heaven and hell, the Spanish learned that visual codes needed to be combined with verbal communication to reveal their meanings.

Keywords:   sign language, visual symbols, pictorial catechisms, language contact, Dominicans, colonial Mexico, Indians

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