Painting Guide for Texcalans, Huaxtec, Purempecha, Mayans

I’ve separate painting guides for Spanish and Aztecs. This page covers the other Mexican nations.

Texcalans (Tlaxcalans)

Texcalans at Conquest of Michoacan
Lienzo of Tlaxcala

The Texcalans (commonly called Tlaxcalans) were one of the major opponents of the Aztecs, and became the major Indian allies of the Spanish during the conquest. In general the Texcalan’s looked very similar to their Aztec enemies. Significant differences to the Aztecs were:

  • Slightly different shield patterns, or more accurately much the same shield patterns but certain patterns being favoured over others.
  • Distinctive face painting. Although the Aztecs used face painting as well the Texcalans favoured their own designs, for example, a black oval over the eyes and nose characteristic of the Chichimec god Mixcoatl (see Plate D1 Tlaxcalan bowman in Pohl, 1991) and thin red and white strips covering the whole face (see Plate D2 Tlaxcalan soldier in Pohl, 1991). As you’ll see from the illustrations below not all Texcalans used face paint.
  • Emphasis of the colour red on trim of cotton armour and loin cloth.
  • Red and white headband (imposed by the Spanish so not used earlier than 1519) .

This scene from Lienzo de Tlaxcala shows two of the four royal backbanners used by the Texcalans – the fan (Quiahiztlan) and the bird (Ocotelolco) backbanners (Pohl, 1991, p. 20). The other two royal banners were a variation on the umbrella backbanner (Tepecticpac) and an another kind of bird (Tizatlan).

The chap on the left of this picture is typical of Texcalan commoners. Short off-white cotton (or pale drab green) vest with red trim, loin cloth also with red trim, plain off white shield with red trim, and red and white head band.

Spaniard and Texcalans
Lienzo de Tlaxcala

The Texclans seemed to have ample numbers of suit wearers in the normal range of colours and patterns, although they lack the Eagle and Jaguar Military orders of the Aztecs.

In general Texcalans seemed to use similar shields to the Aztecs, however, this second picture from Lienzo de Tlaxcala illustrates the two most common shield patterns used by Texcalan suit wearers. The shield on the right seems to be unique to Texcalans, as I haven’t seen any illustrations of Azecs using it. As with the Aztecs, the shield on the left probably had a multitude of variations, for example, the right hand figure above has a very similar shield in different colours and without the feather fringe.

Have a look at my shields page and the Aztec page for other ideas on shield designs.

Relevant Osprey plates:

  • Wise (1980)
    • C1 Tlaxcalan captain
    • C2 Tlaxcalan porter
  • Pohl (1991)
    • D1 Tlaxcalan bowman
    • D2 Tlaxcalan soldier
    • D3 Elite warrior of Tlaxcala
    • E1 Huexotzingan warrior
    • E2 Priest of Cholula or Coixtlahuaca
    • E3 Tlaxcalan General


The Florentine Codex has a fine depiction of an Aztec army going to war. It features these two men in Huaxtec style uniforms – in particular the pointy hats. It isn’t clear to me if they’re Aztecs dressed in Huaxtec style or actually Huaxtec. Either way they give an idea of what the costumes would have looked like.

Purempecha (Tarascans)

The Purempecha, or Tarascans to the Spanish, lived to the west of the Triple Alliance and successfully blocked any Aztec expansion in that direction.

The illustration is from Lienzo of Tlaxcala and shows the defenders in the Spanish conquest of Michoacan – the homeland of the Purempecha.


Relevant Osprey plates:

  • Wise (1980)
    • H1 Maya General
    • H2 Maya Warrior
    • H3 Maya peasant levy

The illustration is of the defenders in the 1523 Spanish invasion of Guatemala. The Guatemalans were a Mayan people.

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