The Codex Espangliensis is the result of a passionate collaboration between book artist Felicia Rice, visual artist Enrique Chagoya, and performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Peña. Within the pages of the book, contemporary popular icons such as Superman and Mickey Mouse meet five hundred year old legends like Cortés and Moctezuma, while characters and pages from original colonial-era codices are juxtaposed with 16th century woodcut images of Bartolomé de las Casa’s A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552)
Alongside the imagery, Gomez-Peña’s word compositions (which were written to be spoken aloud) detail the struggle of the modern Mexican and Mexican-American soul as it attempt to navigate conflicting culture, politics, and histories. Using English, Spanish, Spanglish, Nuahtl, and even French, Gomez-Peña ironically embodies the stereotypical “Mexican” in accent and syntax. This politically charged yet poignant internal monologue addresses the longing for home, confronts bigotry, and mediates clashing cultures.
Made in a codex format and printed on amatl paper, which is used in traditional Mesoamerican bookmaking, the Codex Espangliensis is at once a homage to Mexican culture and a subversive examination of the country’s history since the Spanish conquest. The book is opened in the traditional right to left codex format, yet contains no clear structure or chronology, allowing the reader to fold and re-arrange screens at will. This creates a liminal space in which past and present collide. History is unhinged and revealed as subjective and subject to change.