Legends of the Plumed Serpent Biography of a Mexican God

Few images hold an active claim on the imaginations of countless generations, but the Plumed Serpent, or Quetzalcoatl, has endured through 5,000 years of Mesoamerican history. Visualized as part bird and part snake and also in human form, this benevolent god remained a potent symbol of creation from the time of the ancient Olmec to the Mexican revolution. When Hernán Cortes arrived in his “New Spain” in 1519, the Aztecs believed he might embody the Plumed Serpent. Four hundred years later, Quetzalcoatl’s image was invoked in the revolutionary art of muralist Diego Rivera. It also took root ten years ago in the fertile imagination of seasoned biographer Neil Baldwin when he toured the archaeological sites of Mexico.

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At first simply reacting to the dearth of informative guidebooks, Baldwin resolved to unearth the more profound significance of some of the stone carvings he puzzled over at the ruins of Uxmal and Chichén Itzá. As his travels and reading broadened, Baldwin set his sights on the Plumed Serpent – a myth – as the subject of his biography. Enlivened with photographs of ancient sites, modern murals, and historical documents throughout, Legends of the Plumed Serpent is an erudite tour of the archaeological treasures of Mexico, an unusual biography of a myth, and a detailed cultural history.

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