Throughout the Lienzo de Tlaxcala, the artist uses the clothing that is worn, body language and surrounding environment to illustrate the hierarchical structure of Tlaxcalan society, while enhancing the methods by which different groups of people interacted in this time. The canvas showcases the Tlaxcalan’s rise to power, their religious ideals, and how the Tlaxcalans and Spaniards worked together to defeat the Aztec Empire.
In the first panel, the story begins with the artist illustrating a letter being brought by a foreign messenger to a group of Tlaxcala’s leaders. The messenger is depicted as being very strange, wearing only a loincloth and sandals, having his face and thigh tattooed, and wild unkempt hair, (Panel 1 of Lienzo de Tlaxcala, Detail 1,2). The artist uses the different clothing of the people depicted to show their status, and race. The Tlaxcalan Nobles are presented with long robes, and head pieces while their counterpart- a foreign stranger is depicted as a savage, wearing very little, with his eyes downcasted. These details help to enhance how Tlaxcalan society valued one’s status; from peasants to nobles, and how one’s position determined their role in society.
As well as clothing, the different people’s actions and environment in the drawings help to depict the structural components that make up Tlaxcalan society. In this scene, the four Tlaxcalan nobles are sitting on stools surrounding the messenger, (Panel 1, Detail 1.5). The artist created the scene in this way to enhance how the nobles are in a position of power in comparison to the messenger. The artist also depicts a total of four nobles, each a ruler for Tlaxcala’s four main “altepetl,” (Summary, Mesolore.org). These four leaders help show that Tlaxcalan society was complex, and made up of smaller unified groups that negotiated and worked together in their dealings.