The Murals of Cacaxtla
The sudden appearance of Maya-style characteristics in the art of Epiclassic sites in Central Mexico has sparked debate regarding the relationship between the polity of Cacaxtla and the distant Maya Lowlands. Early studies linked these developments, described in ethnohistoric sources, to migrations of the Olmeca-Xicalanca of the southern Gulf Coast. Recent studies assert that Cacaxtla’s artists adopted an “eclectic” assortment of foreign stylistic elements in order to proclaim ties to distant sources of wealth and power that were not necessarily rooted in historic reality. This study argues that Cacaxtla’s artists deployed stylistic, technical, and iconographic conventions in a manner that reflects deep and sustained engagement with specific Maya cities rather than superficial claims of aggrandizement. Evaluation through current anthropological understandings of how and why people migrate and how group identity is expressed in the midst of population movements suggests that Cacaxtla’s monumental art programs constitute an additional line of evidence in support of Epiclassic migration from the southern Gulf Coast, or western Maya Lowlands, to Central Mexico.