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Aztec Culture
The Aztecs were a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people of central Mexico in the
14th, 15th and 16th centuries. They called themselves Mexica. The Republic of
Mexico and its capital, Mexico City, derive their names from the word "Mexica".

The capital of the Aztec empire was Tenochtitlan, built on raised island in Lake
Texcoco. Mexico City is built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan. The Spanish colonization
of the Americas reached the mainland during the reign of Huey Tlatoani , Moctezuma
II (Montezuma II). In 1521 Hernan Cortes and an allied army of American Indians
that far outnumbered the defending Aztecs, conquered the Aztecs through germ
warfare, siege warfare, psychological warfare, and direct combat.

History of the Aztecs Wikipedia

According to their own history, when the Mexicas arrived in the Anahuac valley
(Valley of Mexico) around Lake Texcoco, the groups living there considered them
uncivilized. The Mexicas borrowed much of their culture from the ancient Toltec
whom they seem to have at least partially confused with the more ancient civilization
of Teotihuacan. To the Mexicas, the Toltecs were the originators of all culture;
"Toltecayotl" was a synonym for culture. Mexica legends identify the Toltecs and the
cult of Quetzalcoatl with the mythical city of Tollan, which they also identified with
the more ancient Teotihuacan.
The center of the Aztec civilization was the Valley of Mexico, a huge, oval basin
about 7,500 feet above sea level. The Aztec empire included many cities and towns,
especially in the Valley of Mexico. The largest city in the empire was the capital,

Tenochititlan The Capitol City of Aztecs - Pyramids

The early settlers built log rafts, then covered them with mud and planted seeds to
create roots and develop more solid land for building homes in this marshy land.
Canals were also cut out through the marsh so that a typical Aztec home had its back
to a canal with a canoe tied at the door.

The story of the Aztecs' rise to power is awe inspiring one, and is one of the most
remarkable stories in world history. They were a relatively unknown group of people
who came into the Valley of Mexico during the 12th and 13th century A.D., and rose
to be the greatest power in the Americas by the time the Spaniards arrived, in the 16th
Little is known of the earliest Aztecs, they did not keep a written record. Their history
was passed on by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Legend has it that
they came from an Island called Aztlan, meaning White Place - Place of Herons.

In the Aztec codex Tira de la Peregrinacion, commonly called the Migration Scrolls.
The scrolls have the Aztecs leaving Aztlan, which was described as an island in a lake
with Chicomoztoc depicted as seven temples in the center of the island. The Aztecs
felt they were the "chosen people" of Huitzilopochtli. The Aztecs believed
Huitzilopochtli their war god was their protector, how had them search for their
promised land.

Sometime during the 12th & 13th century the Aztecs straggled into the Valley of
Mexico, led by their chieftain Tenoch. They were a poor, ragged people who survived
on vermin, snakes, and stolen food. They were hatred and rejected by all the
surrounding inhabitants of the valley, for their barbarous and uncultured habits. They
were driven from one location to another. Early in the 14th century, Huitzilopochtli
told Tenoch to lead his people to a place of refuge on a swampy island in Lake
Texcoco. When they reached their destination, they were to look for an eagle perched
on a cactus, growing from a rock or cave surrounded by water. At that location, they
were to build their city and honor Huitzilopochtli with human sacrifices. The city they
built was called Tenochtitlan, the city of Tenoch.

In the beginning stages of Tenochtitlan, development, Aztec life was very difficult in
their undesirable location. Tenochtitlan was located on a marshy island with limited
resources, they built a few thatch and mud huts, and some small temples. The Aztecs
would have to work constantly to maintain a city on swampy land. There was also
continuing tensions between the Aztecs and the neighboring peoples on the mainland
who despised them. Despite these obstacles, the Aztecs worked hard to improve the
quality of their lives. They adopted an agricultural system of farming called the
Chinampas. and in a short period of time, the land was transformed into a fertile and
highly productive island.

As the Aztec empire expanded, specialized craftsmen and common laborers were
brought to Tenochtitlan to expand the city. Since it was built on swamp land, large
wooden stakes were driven into the soft ground to provide secure foundations for the
new buildings. They were able to use the stone Tezontli to construct the buildings on
the unstable ground. Despite these precautions, the larger temples and palaces would
often sink below ground level. As a result, the older building were continuously
repaired or rebuilt with the newer structures built over the older core.

By 1376, the Aztecs knew that they had to select a emperor of royal lineage, to gain
respect of their neighbors. With political genius, they chose a man by the name of
Acamapichtli as their emperor. He was related to the last rulers of Culhuacan, and his
lineage extended back in time to the great Toltec ruler Quetzalcoatl. With the selection
of Acamapichtli as the Aztecs first true emperor, their were able to claim descendancy
from the great Toltecs.

During the 15th century the military strength of the Aztecs increased. They grew from
a small tribe of mercenaries into a powerful and highly disciplined military force.
They also formed alliances with their powerful neighbors Texcoco and Tacuba, known
as the Triple Alliance. It was a time for building and the city Tenochtitlan grow and

By the end of Tenochtitlans rule, in 1520, 38 conquered tributary provinces had been
made, who had to make payments. However, some of the tribes at the borders stayed
strongly independent. This made it easy for the Spanish captain, Cortez to defeat
them. The priests reported signs of doom, but Montezuma, the Aztec ruler, thought
Cortez was a returning god. When the Spanish saw the gold presents Montezuma
offered to them as presents, they wanted to conquer the city. The Spanish defeated the
Aztecs and the Catholics felt that it was their duty to destroy every trace of the Aztecs.
The few Aztecs that remain have carried on their culture today.

Aztec is a term used to refer to certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly
those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who achieved political and military
dominance over large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a
period referred to as the Late post-Classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.

Often the term "Aztec" refers exclusively to the people of Tenochtitlan, situated on an
island in Lake Texcoco, who called themselves Mexica Tenochca or Colhua-Mexica.

Sometimes also includes the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan's two principal allied city-
states, the Acolhuas of Texcoco and the Tepanecs of Tlacopan, who together with the
Mexica formed the Aztec Triple Alliance which has also become known as the "Aztec
Empire". In other contexts it may refer to all the various city states and their peoples,
who shared large parts of their ethnic history as well as many important cultural traits
with the Mexica, Acolhua and Tepanecs, and who like them, also spoke the Nahuatl
language. In this meaning it is possible to talk about an Aztec civilization including all
the particular cultural patterns common for the Nahuatl speaking peoples of the late
postclassic period in Mesoamerica.

From the 12th century Valley of Mexico was the nucleus of Aztec civilization: here
the capital of the Aztec Triple Alliance, the city of Tenochtitlan, was built upon raised
islets in Lake Texcoco. The Triple Alliance formed its tributary empire expanding its
political hegemony far beyond the Valley of Mexico, conquering other city states
throughout Mesoamerica.

At its pinnacle Aztec culture had rich and complex mythological and religious
traditions, as well as reaching remarkable architectural and artistic accomplishments.
A particularly striking element of Aztec culture to many was the practice of human

In 1521, in what is probably the most widely known episode in the Spanish
colonization of the Americas, Hernan Cortes, along with a large number of Nahuatl
speaking indigenous allies, conquered Tenochtitlan and defeated the Aztec Triple
Alliance under the leadership of Hueyi Tlatoani Moctezuma II; In the series of events
often referred to as "The Fall of the Aztec Empire". Subsequently the Spanish founded
the new settlement of Mexico City on the site of the ruined Aztec capital.

The capital city of the Aztec empire was Tenochtitlan, now the site of modern-day
Mexico City. Built on a series of islets in Lake Texcoco, the city plan was based on a
symmetrical layout that was divided into four city sections called campans. The city
was interlaced with canals which were useful for transportation.

Tenochtitlan was built according to a fixed plan and centered on the ritual precinct,
where the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan rose 50 m above the city. Houses were made
of wood and loam, roofs were made of reed, although pyramids, temples and palaces
were generally made of stone.
Around the island, chinampa beds were used to grow foodstuffs as well as, over time,
to increase the size of the island. Chinampas, misnamed "floating gardens", were long
raised plant beds set upon the shallow lake bottom. They were a very efficient
agricultural system and could provide up to seven crops a year. On the basis of current
chinampa yields, it has been estimated that 1 hectare of chinampa would feed 20
individuals and 9,000 hectares of chinampas could feed 180,000.

Anthropologist Eduardo Noguera estimates the population at 200,000 based in the

house count and merging the population of Tlatelolco (once an independent city, but
later became a suburb of Tenochtitlan). If one includes the surrounding islets and
shores surrounding Lake Texcoco, estimates range from 300,000 to 700,000

The Aztec civilization contained about 15 million people that lived in nearly 500
towns and cities. About 300,000 people lived in Tenochtitlan. In this famous city, the
government controlled and were responsible to deal with taxes, punishment, famine,
and market trading. Punishment in the city of Tenochtitlan was enforced for breaking
any of the code of government laws. Offenders were enslaved into tedious work
conditions for a specific amount of time. If the offense happened to be minor, the law-
breaker was charged with a string of fees or fines. This type of governing system is
only one of the many things that affected aspects of everyday life for the Aztecs.

The city of Tenochtitlan was truly magnificient. Its crime rate was extremely low, and
it was almost impossible to find waste in the city. The city's inhabitants were smart,
and loyal to the city. The structures were amazing, including the Main Temple, the
Great Pyramid, and many famous palaces. The Aztecs worked around things that were
hard to come by, like food. Instead they maintained other jobs and traded with foreign
countries. Everything about Tenochtitlan was wonderful, and the city stands out as
one of the greatest empire of all time.

Tenochtitlan was founded in a fascinating way. Supposedly, the myth behind the
founding of Tenochtitlan: Huitzilopochtli (the God of the Aztecs) told one of the
leaders in a dream, "When you followed my orders and killed my nephew Capil and
ripped out his heart, and threw it away into the lake, the heart fell on a stone, and from
this stone out grew a napal cactus and on this an eagle is now perched. There you will
establish a city named Tenochtitlan".

The leader listened to Huitzilipochtli, and followed through with his orders in Anno
Domini 1325. The reason behind naming the city Tenochtitlan was that it meant the
place of rock and nopal. The heart of Capil landed on a rock, where a nopal grew;
"nochtli" means nopal. This leader, his name unknown, followed his god's command,
despite this area being one of the worst pieces of lan in Mexico. Tenochitlan was built
where Mexico City now stands, and the land was marshy and snake-infested, the little
amount that there was. At first, Tenochtitlan's position was on two islands, yet over
short periods of time it extended to the lake circling it by way of building docks
attached to the isles by peers, and building settlements on these docks over Lake

Though it wasn't the best land around, this leader designed the city to perfection.
There were four huge dikes all going out from the center of the city to separate docks
and small islands. These four dikes made up four quadrants in the city. Each of the
quadrants contains housing developments, and what were known as "floating
gardens". The houses were painted white with adobe roofs. The reason the houses
were painted white was so the light would reflect of them and keep the inhabitants
living in the house cool.

The houses were also packed tightly together to make the only time when the sun
would beam down on them high noon. The floating gardens were important to
Tenochtitlan because there was so little land to farm on. The inhabitants of
Tenochtitlan used irrigation to grow crops throughout the year and made "floating
gardens" by filling shallow areas of the lake and anchoring the soil with trees. The
floating gardens were a great success, and also added to the beauty of the city.
Tenochtitlan was probably one of, if not the best designed city in the world, and the
center of the city proved this true.

The center of Tenochtitlan was made up of many temples, the most important one
being the Main Temple, palaces, pyramids, and a great plaza. The center was roughly
five-hundred and fifty square yards, but seemed much bigger because everything was
packed so tightly together. There were close to a dozen temples in the center, but the
most important one was the Main Temple. The Main Temple was dedicated to rain
god Tlaloc and sun god Huitzilopochtli, whom the Aztecs considered their protector.
The Main Temple was a large temple, which words could not describe.

It was free of any sort of litter and had an incredibly tall wall in which another city
could be constructed. It was important to the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan, and they
worshiped daily in it. There were also many palaces and pyramids. The palaces were
dedicated to the kings and nobles, and the pyramids were made for sacrifices.

The Aztecs of Tenochtitlan though it necessary to nourish the deities with human
hearts, because if not, then the sun would not come up daily, or there would be an
enormous drought. The people mostly used prisoners of war for their sacrifices. The
main place of sacrifice was the Great Pyramid. It had one-hundred and fourteen steps,
and added to the magnificent beauty of the city. The Plaza was in the dead center of
the city, and was whitewashed. It had no litter whatsoever, and great walls
surrounding it. The Plaza and all of these structures make the center look like a thing
of beauty.

The inhabitants of Tenochtitlan were what probably made Tenochtitlan the great
empire that it is remembered as today. Tenochtitlan was spread out over 26,400 feet,
and held over 400,000 inhabitants. That is the largest population density ever recorded
in Meso-American history. All of the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan were Aztecs, and had
the same culture and religion. They were all polytheistic, believing in many gods.

The most important one to them was Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun. The Aztecs
worshiped him daily in the Main Temple. Since the land was not a great place to grow
crops, the Aztecs were forced to work around this fact, which they did very well. Most
of the citizens who lived in Tenochtitlan held jobs which were not associated with
food. The residents of the metropolis made crafts, preached their religion, traded with
other civilizations, or became part of the government. The Spaniards and other nations
were amazed with the sheer quality of the city and its residents, so therefore traded
much with them. The Aztecs received nearly all of their food from foreign trade. The
Aztecs were a magnificent race of people who preserved Tenochtitlan for over two-
hundred years.

Many things were responsible for the fall of Tenochtitlan. The three main causes were
repeated attacks by Cortes, a great famine that resulted from a decline in foreign trade,
and many diseases carried over by the Euoropeans. Tenochtitlan was well protected by
Lake Texcoco, but Cortes and his army were just too strong. The city fell in AD 1540,
and Cortes destroyed the city. He built over it what is now known as Mexico City.
Although the city itself was destroyed, the memories and sheer beauty of the city will
remain forever.

Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire

The empire reached its height during Ahuitzotl's reign in 1486-1502. His
successor, Motehcuzoma Xocoyotzin (better known as Moctezuma II or
Montezuma), had been Hueyi Tlatoani for 17 years when the Spaniards, led by
Hernan Cortes, landed on the Gulf Coast in the spring of 1519.

Despite some early battles between the two, Cortes allied himself with the
Aztecs' long-time enemy, the Confederacy of Tlaxcala, and arrived at the gates
of Tenochtitlan on November 8, 1519.

The Spaniards and their Tlaxcallan allies became increasingly dangerous and
unwelcome guests in the capital city. In June, 1520, hostilities broke out,
culminating in the massacre in the Main Temple and the death of Moctezuma
II. The Spaniards fled the town on July 1, an episode later characterized as La
Noche Triste (the Sad Night). They and their native allies returned in the spring
of 1521 to lay siege to Tenochtitlan, a battle that ended on August 13 with the
destruction of the city. During this period the now crumbling empire went
through a rapid line of ruler succession. After the death of Moctezuma II, the
empire fell into the hands of severely weakened emperors, such as Cuitlahuac,
before eventually being ruled by puppet rulers, such as Andres de Tapia
Motelchiuh, installed by the Spanish.

Despite the decline of the Aztec empire, most of the Mesoamerican cultures
were intact after the fall of Tenochtitlan. Indeed, the freedom from Aztec
domination may have been considered a positive development by most of the
other cultures. The upper classes of the Aztec empire were considered
noblemen by the Spaniards and generally treated as such initially. All this
changed rapidly and the native population were soon forbidden to study by law,
and had the status of minors.

The Tlaxcalans remained loyal to their Spanish friends and were allowed to
come on other conquests with Cortes and his men.

Song and poetry were highly regarded; there were presentations and poetry contests at
most of the Aztec festivals. There were also dramatic presentations that included
players, musicians and acrobats.

Poetry was the only occupation worthy of an Aztec warrior in times of peace. A
remarkable amount of this poetry survives, having been collected during the era of the
conquest. In some cases poetry is attributed to individual authors, such as
Nezahualcoyotl, tlatoani of Texcoco, and Cuacuauhtzin, Lord of Tepechpan, but
whether these attributions reflect actual authorship is a matter of opinion. Miguel
Leon-Portilla, a well-respected Aztec scholar of Mexico, has stated that it is in this
poetry where we can find the real thought of the Aztecs, independent of "official"
Aztec ideology.

It is also important to note that the Spanish classified many aspects of the
Aztec/Nahuatl culture according to the lexicon and organizational categories with
which they would distinguish in Europe.
In the same way that the second letter of Cortez made a mention of "mesquitas", or in
English, "mosques", when trying to convey his impression of Aztec architecture, early
colonists and missionaries divided the principal bodies of nahuatl literature as
"poetry" and "prose". "Poetry" was in xochitl in cuicatl a dual term meaning "the
flower and the song" and was divided into different genres. Yaocuicatl was devoted to
war and the god(s) of war, Teocuicatl to the gods and creation myths and to adoration
of said figures, xochicuicatl to flowers (a symbol of poetry itself and indicative of the
highly metaphorical nature of a poetry that often utilized duality to convey multiple
layers of meaning). "Prose" was tlahtolli, also with its different categories and
divisions (Garganigo et al).

The most important collection of these poems is Romances de los senores de la Nueva
Espana, collected (Tezcoco 1582), probably by Juan Bautista de Pomar. Bautista de
Pomar was the great-grandson of Netzahualcoyotl. He spoke Nahuatl, but was raised a
Christian and wrote in Latin characters. (See also: "Is It You?", a short poem attributed
to Netzahualcoyotl, and "Lament on the Fall of Tenochtitlan", a short poem contained
within the "Anales de Tlatelolco" manuscript.)

The Aztec people also enjoyed a type of dramatic presentation, a kind of theatre.
Some plays were comical with music and acrobats, others were staged dramas of their
gods. After the conquest, the first Christian churches had open chapels reserved for
these kinds of representations.

Plays in Nahuatl, written by converted Indians, were an important instrument for the
conversion to Christianity, and are still found today in the form of traditional
pastorelas, which are played during Christmas to show the Adoration of Baby Jesus,
and other Biblical passages.

Music and dance formed an essential part of the indigenous rites and ceremonies.
Research about music of the Aztec people dates back to the writings of Bernal del
Castillo, who was appalled by the music of these people because he viewed it during
their ritualistic sacrifices, which were very different from rituals of Christian worship.
Others, such as the Franciscan monk Fray Bernardino de Sahagun and the Dominican
monk Diego Duran, were able to look at the music from different viewpoints, noting
the unique instruments and the qualities of pitch and harmony that were achieved with
these instruments - new sounds to their ears. Some musical instruments used are
Tetzilacatl, Teponaztli, Tecomapiloa, Omichicahuaztli, Huehuetl, Coyolli, Chililitli,
Caililiztli, Chicahuaztli, Cacalachtli, Ayotl, Ayacahtli, Tetzilacatl.

The Aztec sculptures which adorned their temples and other buildings were among the
most elaborate in all of the Americas. Their purpose was to please the gods and they
attempted to do that in everything they did. Many of the sculptures reflected their
perception of their gods and how they interacted in their lives. The most famous
surviving Aztec sculpture is the large circular Calendar Stone, which represents the
Aztec universe.


There are few extant Aztec codices created before the conquest and these are largely
ritual texts. Post-conquest codices, like Codex Mendoza or Codex Rios, were painted
by Aztec tlacuilos (codex creators), but under the control of Spanish authorities.
The possibility of Spanish influence poses potential problems for those studying the
post-conquest codices. Itzcoatl had the oldest hieroglyphics destroyed for political-
religious reasons and Bishop Zumarraga of Mexico (1528-48) had all available texts
burned for missionary reasons.

List of Codices


The principal food of the Aztec was a thin cornmeal pancake called a tlaxcalli. (In
Spanish, it is called a tortilla.) They used the tlaxcallis to scoop up foods while they
ate or they wrapped the foods in the tlaxcalli to form tacos. They hunted for most of
the meat in their diet and the chief game animals were deer, rabbits, ducks and geese.
The only animals they raised for meat were turkeys and dogs.
The Aztecs have been credited with the discovery of chocolate. The Aztecs made
chocolate from the fruit of the cacao tree and used it as a flavoring and as an
ingredient in various beverages and kinds of confectionery.

In 1519, Hernan Cortez tasted Cacahuatt, a drink enjoyed by Montezuma II, the last
Aztec emperor. Cortez observed that the Aztecs treated cacao beans, used to make the
drink, as priceless treasures. He subsequently brought the beans back to Spain where
the chocolate drink was made and then heated with added sweeteners. Its formula was
kept a secret to be only enjoyed by the nobility and the warrior class.


The Aztec economy can be divided into a political sector, under the control of nobles
and kings, and a commercial sector that operated independently of the political sector.
The political sector of the economy centered on the control of land and labor by kings
and nobles. Nobles owned all land, and commoners got access to farmland and other
fields through a variety of arrangements, from rental through sharecropping to serf-
like labor and slavery. These payments from commoners to nobles supported both the
lavish lifestyles of the high nobility and the finances of city-states. Many luxury goods
were produced for consumption by nobles. The producers of featherwork, sculptures,
jewelry, and other luxury items were full-time commoner specialists who worked for
noble patrons.

In the commercial sector of the economy several types of money were in regular use.
Small purchases were made with cacao beans, which had to be imported from lowland
areas. In Aztec marketplaces, a small rabbit was worth 30 beans, a turkey egg cost 3
beans, and a tamal cost a single bean. For larger purchases, standardized lengths of
cotton cloth called quachtli were used. There were different grades of quachtli,
ranging in value from 65 to 300 cacao beans. One source stated that 20 quachtli could
support a commoner for one year in Tenochtitlan. A man could also sell his own
daughter as a sexual slave or future religious sacrifice, generally for around 500 to
700 beans.

A small gold statue (approximately 0.62 kg / 1.37 lb) cost 250 beans. Money was used
primarily in the many periodic markets that were held in each town. A typical town
would have a weekly market (every 5 days), while larger cities held markets every
day. Cortes reported that the central market of Tlatelolco, Tenochtitlan's sister city,
was visited by 60,000 people daily. Some sellers in the markets were petty vendors;
farmers might sell some of their produce, potters sold their vessels, and so on. Other
vendors were professional merchants who traveled from market to market seeking
profits. The pochteca were specialized merchants organized into exclusive guilds.
They made lengthy expeditions to all parts of Mesoamerica, and they served as the
judges and supervisors of the Tlatelolco market. Although the economy of Aztec
Mexico was commercialized (in its use of money, markets, and merchants), it was not
"a capitalist economy because land and labor were not commodities for sale."


The Mexicas were especially interested in education. Boys and girls were carefully
educated from birth. During the first years of life, fathers educated boys, while
mothers took care of girls. Once family education was over, the children of the nobles
and priests went to the calmecac, and all others went to the tepochcalli. The Aztecs
believed that education was extremely valuable and insisted that boys, girls and young
people attend school. There were two main types of school, the so-called tepochcalli
and the calm-cac. Boys and girls went to both, but were kept separate from each other.
The tepochcalli was for the children of common families and there was one in each
neighborhood. Here, children learned history, myths, religion and Aztec ceremonial
songs. Boys received intensive military training and also learned about agriculture and
the trades. Girls were educated to form a family, and were trained in the arts and
trades that would ensure the welfare of their future homes.

The calmecac was for the children of the nobility, and served to form new military and
religious leaders.

Teachers were greatly admired.

Until the age of fourteen, the education of children was in the hands of their parents,
but supervised by the authorities of their calpolli. Part of this education involved
learning a collection of sayings, called huehuetlatolli ("sayings of the old"), that
embodied the Aztecs' ideals. Judged by their language, most of the huehuetlatolli
seemed to have evolved over several centuries, predating the Aztecs and most likely
adopted from other Nahua cultures.

At 15, all boys and girls went to school. The Mexica, one of the Aztec groups, were
one of the first people in the world to have mandatory education for nearly all
children, regardless of gender, rank, or station. There were two types of schools: the
telpochcalli, for practical and military studies, and the calmecac, for advanced
learning in writing, astronomy, statesmanship, theology, and other areas. The two
institutions seem to be common to the Nahua people, leading some experts to suggest
that they are older than the Aztec culture.

Aztec teachers (tlatimine) propounded a spartan regime of education with the purpose
of forming a stoical people.

Girls were educated in the crafts of home and child raising. They were not taught to
read or write. All women were taught to be involved in religion; there are paintings of
women presiding over religious ceremonies, but there are no references to female

Family Life
In the context of the family, men and women played distinct roles. Aztec women
married at about 16. In school boys were taught arts and crafts, and the girls were
taught to cook and other necessities to raise a family.

Farming - Irrigation

The Aztecs made terraces, which were steps descending down a hall to control the
flow of water. This kept their crops from flooding. Like the Olmec civilization, the
Aztecs also used a slash and burn method of farming. Chinampas, artificial islands
made by weaving giant reed mats and covering them with mudded plants, were used
to extend crops into the swamp. Although they seemed to float, the chinampas were
anchored to the ground by plant roots. All this helped the Aztecs grow and abundance
of corn, chili peppers, squash, tomatoes, beans, and other kinds of food.

The Aztecs were late arrivals to the Lake Texcoco area. They were surrounded by very
strong neighbors, so they were forced to live on the swampy, western side of the lake.
As the Aztecs grew in number they made excellent military and civil organizations.
By 1325, they founded the city of Tenochtitlan. The city was located on present day
Mexico City.

It was very hard to build Tenochtitlan because the Aztecs only had a small piece of
land in the surrounding marshes. The Aztecs made the swampy, shallow lake into
chinampas. In this case the islands were made by piling up mud from the lake bottom.
They used them as their city foundations. Then they built causeways and bridges to
connect the city to the mainland. To easily move people and goods, canals were dug
and lined with stone. All this made it easy to defend the city from attack. Because of
Tenochtitlan's location and high organization, the city grew rapidly. By 1519 there
were about 60,000 people in the city every day. Goods were exported and traded in
many other parts of the Aztec Empire.

The Aztec Empire was an example of an empire that ruled by indirect means. Like
most European empires, it was ethnically very diverse, but unlike most European
empires, it was more a system of tribute than a single system of government. In the
theoretical framework of imperial systems posited by Alexander J. Motyl the Aztec
empire was an informal or hegemonic empire because it did not exert supreme
authority over the conquered lands, it merely expected tributes to be paid. It was also
a discontinuous empire because not all dominated territories were connected, for
example the southern peripheral zones of Xoconochco were not in direct contact with
the center. The hegemonic nature of the Aztec empire can be seen in the fact that
generally local rulers were restored to their positions once their city-state was
conquered and the Aztecs did not interfere in local affairs as long as the tribute
payments were made.

Although the Aztec form of government is often referred to as an empire, in fact most
areas within the empire were organized as city-states, known as altepetl in Nahuatl.
These were small polities ruled by a king (tlatoani) from a legitimate dynasty. The
Early Aztec period was a time of growth and competition among altepetl. Even after
the empire was formed (1428) and began its program of expansion through conquest,
the altepetl remained the dominant form of organization at the local level. The
efficient role of the altepetl as a regional political unit was largely responsible for the
success of the empire's hegemonic form of control.

Aztec Emperors
List of Aztec Emperors Wikipedia

List of Mexico-Tenochtitlan Rulers Wikipedia

Human Sacrifice
Human sacrifice as shown in the Codex Magliabechiano
For most people today, and for the European Catholics who first met the Aztecs,
human sacrifice was the most striking feature of Aztec civilization. While human
sacrifice was practiced throughout Mesoamerica, the Aztecs, if their own accounts are
to be believed, brought this practice to an unprecedented level.

For example, for the reconsecration of Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487, the
Aztecs reported that they sacrificed 84,400 prisoners over the course of four days,
reportedly by Ahuitzotl, the Great Speaker himself.

However, most experts consider these numbers to be overstated. For example, the
sheer logistics associated with sacrificing 84,000 victims would be overwhelming,
2,000 being a more likely figure. A similar consensus has developed on reports of
cannibalism among the Aztecs.

In the writings of Bernardino de Sahagun, Aztec "anonymous informants" defended

the practice of human sacrifice by asserting that it was not very different from the
European way of waging warfare: Europeans killed the warriors in battle, Aztecs
killed the warriors after the battle.
Accounts by the Tlaxcaltecas, the primary enemy of the Aztecs at the time of the
Spanish Conquest, show that at least some of them considered it an honor to be
sacrificed. In one legend, the warrior Tlahuicole was freed by the Aztecs but
eventually returned of his own volition to die in ritual sacrifice. Tlaxcala also
practiced the human sacrifice of captured Aztec warriors.

The Aztec spoke a language called Nahuatl (pronounced NAH waht l). It belongs to a
large group of Indian languages which also include the languages spoken by the
Comanche, Pima, Shoshone and other tribes of western North America.

Nahuatl is a group of related languages and dialects of the Nahuan (traditionally

called "Aztecan") branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Collectively they are
spoken by an estimated 1.5 million Nahua people, most of whom live in Central
Mexico. All Nahuan languages are indigenous to Mesoamerica.

This early literary language based on the Tenochtitlan dialect has been labeled
Classical Nahuatl and is among the most studied and best documented languages of
the Americas. Today Nahuatl dialects are spoken in scattered communities mostly in
rural areas.

Variations of this language are still spoken in some of the more remote areas of
Mexico in which the indigenous cultures are still alive. Nahuatl is a variation of a
larger language group known as Uto-Aztecan. Other variations on this language group
are still spoken in some of the regions spanning from central Mexico through northern
Mexico on into the southwestern United States including the Pima, Tohono O'ohdam
of Arizona.

The Aztecs used a vigesimal system, counting by 20s. The numbers 1-19 were
expressed by dots or occasionally by fingers; 20 was represented by a flag; 400 (i.e.
20 >(20) by a sign which looks like a feather or a fir tree; and 8,000 (20 x 20 x 20) by
a bag or tasseled pouch which was imagined to contain 8,000 cocoa beans.

The Aztecs also liked to play games. They were nothing like the games of today - if
anything they might be closest to online bingo. They were very competitive and didn't
like to lose.

Mythology and Religion

Aztec religion a Mesoamerican religion combining elements of polytheism,
shamanism and animism within a framework of astronomy and calendrics. Like other
Mesoamerican religions, it had elements of human sacrifice in connection with a large
number of religious festivals which were held according to patterns of the Aztec
calendar. It had a large and ever increasing pantheon; the Aztecs would often adopt
into their own religious practice deities of other geographic regions or peoples.

Aztec cosmology divided the world into upper and nether-worlds, each associated
with a specific set of deities and astronomical objects. Important in Aztec religion
were the sun, moon and the planet Venus--all of which held different symbolic and
religious meanings and were connected to deities and geographical places.

Large parts of the Aztec pantheon were inherited from previous Mesoamerican
civilizations and others, such as Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, were venerated
by different names in most cultures throughout the history of Mesoamerica. For the
Aztecs especially important deities were Tlaloc the god of rain, Huitzilopochtli the
patron god of the Mexico tribe, Quetzalcoatl the culture hero and god of civilization
and order, and Tezcatlipoca the god of destiny and fortune, connected with war and
sorcery. Each of these gods had their own temples within the Aztec capital
Tenochtitlan - Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli were both worshipped at the Templo Mayor.
A common Aztec religious practice was the recreation of the divine: Mythological
events would be ritually recreated and living persons would impersonate specific
deities and be revered as a god--and often ritually sacrificed.
Gods and Goddesses


Precolumbian Aztec society was the highly complex and stratified society that
developed among the Aztecs of central Mexico in the centuries prior to the Spanish
conquest of Mexico, and which were built on the cultural foundations of the larger
region of Mesoamerica.

Politically the society was based around the independent citystate, called an
"Altepetl", composed of smaller divisions called Calpulli, which were again normally
composed of one or more extended kinship groups. Socially the society depended on a
rather strict division between nobles and free commoners both groups which were
divided into elaborate hierarchies of social status, responsibilities and power.
Economically the society was dependent on agriculture and also to a large extent
warfare, other economically important factors was commerce, long distance and local,
and a high degree of trade specialization. Recreation was important.

Class Structure

In Aztec society, warriors, priests, and the nobility were considered to be among the
most respected in the Aztecan social hierarchy Because of the Aztecs' emphasis on
warfare, the warrior class was highly valued, and often warriors would volunteer for
the most important Aztec sacrificial rituals.
The long distance traders also enjoyed considerable privileges and often served the
government as ambassadors and spies. The most outstanding artisans, physicians and
truly wise teachers were also highly respected.

The Aztec society was divided into 3 classes: slaves, commoners, and nobility.


The highest class were the pipiltin or nobility. Originally this status was not
hereditary, although the sons of pillis had access to better resources and
education, so it was easier for them to become pillis. Later the class system
took on hereditary aspects.

The nobilities were the people who were nobles by birth, priests, and those who
earned their rank. The very highest social sphere was occupied by a minority of
families known as the pipiltin. These people were members of the hereditary
nobility and occupied the top positions in the government, the army and the
priesthood. The nobles chose a supreme leader known as the tlatoani from
within their own group; in Nahuatl this name means he that speaks. This leader
was greatly revered and ruled until his death.


The second class were the 'macehualtin', originally peasants. Eduardo Noguera
estimates that in later stages only 20% of the population was dedicated to
agriculture and food production. The other 80% of society were warriors,
artisans and traders. Eventually, most of the macehuallis were dedicated to arts
and crafts. Their works were an important source of income for the city.

The most numerous social group was known as the macehualtin; these people
were engaged in agriculture and the common trades. Although they worked the
land in family units and were allowed to kept their produce, the land itself was
collectively owned by the inhabitants of the neighborhood or calpulli.
Commoners were given lifetime ownership of an area of land. The lowest
group of commoners were not allowed to own property. They were tenant
farmers, they just got to use the land and never be owners.

The lower social orders were made up by peasants, who like the European
serfs, were attached to the lands owned by the nobility and were obliged to
cultivate them in exchange for part of the harvest.

Slaves or tlacotin also constituted an important class. Aztecs could become
slaves because of debts, as a criminal punishment or as war captives. A slave
could have possessions and even own other slaves. However, upon becoming a
slave, all of the slave's animals and excess money would go to his purchaser.
Slaves could buy their liberty, and slaves could be set free if they had children
with or were married to their masters. Typically, upon the death of the master,
slaves who had performed outstanding services were freed. The rest of the
slaves were passed on as part of an inheritance.

Traveling merchants called pochtecah were a small, but important class as they
not only facilitated commerce, but also communicated vital information across
the empire and beyond its borders. They were often employed as spies.

This slavery was very different from what Europeans of the same period were
to establish in their colonies, although it had much in common with the slaves
of classical antiquity. (Sahagun doubts the appropriateness even of the term
"slavery" for this Aztec institution.) First, slavery was personal, not hereditary:
a slave's children were free. A slave could have possessions and even own other
slaves. Slaves could buy their liberty, and slaves could be set free if they were
able to show they had been mistreated or if they had children with or were
married to their masters.

Typically, upon the death of the master, slaves who had performed outstanding
services were freed. The rest of the slaves were passed on as part of an

Another rather remarkable method for a slave to recover liberty was described
by Manuel Orozco y Berra in La civilizacion azteca (1860): if, at the tianquiztli
(marketplace; the word has survived into modern-day Spanish as "tianguis"), a
slave could escape the vigilance of their master, run outside the walls of the
market and step on a piece of human excrement, and then present their case to
the judges, who would grant freedom. They would then be washed, provided
with new clothes not owned by the master, and declared free. Because a person
who was not a relative of the master could be declared a slave for trying to
prevent a slave's escape, people typically would not help the master prevent the
slave's escape.

Orozco y Berra also reports that a master could not sell a slave without the
slave's consent, unless the slave had been classified as incorrigible by an
authority. (Incorrigibility could be determined on the basis of repeated laziness,
attempts to run away, or general bad conduct.) Incorrigible slaves were made to
wear a wooden collar, affixed by rings at the back. The collar was not merely a
symbol of bad conduct: it was designed to make it harder to run away through a
crowd or through narrow spaces.

When buying a collared slave, one was informed of how many times that slave
had been sold. A slave who was sold four times as incorrigible could be sold to
be sacrificed; those slaves commanded a premium in price.

However, if a collared slave managed to present him- or herself in the royal

palace or in a temple, he or she would regain liberty.

An Aztec could become a slave as a punishment. A murderer sentenced to death

could instead, upon the request of the wife of his victim, be given to her as a
slave. A father could sell his son into slavery if the son was declared
incorrigible by an authority. Those who did not pay their debts could also be
sold as slaves.

People could sell themselves as slaves. They could stay free long enough to
enjoy the price of their liberty, about twenty blankets, usually enough for a
year; after that time they went to their new master. Usually this was the destiny
of gamblers and of old ahuini (courtesans or prostitutes).

Motolinia reports that some captives, future victims of sacrifice, were treated as
slaves with all the rights of an Aztec slave until the time of their sacrifice, but it
is not clear how they were kept from running away.

The children of poor parents could be sold, usually for only a certain time
period. Slaves could buy back their freedom. Slaves that escaped and reached
the royal palace without being caught were given their freedom instantly.

Tribute and Trade

Several pages from the Codex Mendoza list tributary towns along with the goods they
supplied, which included not only luxuries such as feathers, adorned suits, and
greenstone beads, but more practical goods such as cloth, firewood, and food. Tribute
was usually paid twice or four times a year at differing times.
Archaeological excavations in the Aztec-ruled provinces show that incorporation into
the empire had both costs and benefits for provincial peoples. On the positive side, the
empire promoted commerce and trade, and exotic goods from obsidian to bronze
managed to reach the houses of both commoners and nobles. Trade partners included
the enemy Tarascan, a source of bronze tools and jewelry. On the negative side,
imperial tribute imposed a burden on commoner households, who had to increase their
work to pay their share of tribute. Nobles, on the other hand, often made out well
under imperial rule because of the indirect nature of imperial organization. The empire
had to rely on local kings and nobles and offered them privileges for their help in
maintaining order and keeping the tribute flowing. The Aztecs had 3 basic crafts:
metal work, feather work, and music. The metal workers had no iron so they used
copper, gold, and silver.

That created jewelry of gold and silver.


The main contribution of the Aztec rule was a system of communications between the
conquered cities. In Mesoamerica, without draft animals for transport (nor, as a result,
wheeled vehicles), the roads were designed for travel on foot. Usually these roads
were maintained through tribute, and travelers had places to rest and eat and even
latrines to use at regular intervals, roughly every 10 or 15 km. Couriers (paynani)
were constantly travelling along those ways, keeping the Aztecs informed of events,
and helping to monitor the integrity of the roads. Due to the steady surveillance, even
women could travel alone, a fact that amazed the Spaniards, as that was not at all
possible in Europe since the time of the Romans. After the conquest those roads were
no longer subject to maintenance and were lost.

Due to the aspirations of conquest and the religious beliefs of the Mexicas, war was a
very important activity. The Mexicas believed that the gods had sacrificed themselves
for mankind, that their blood had given man life, and that the Sun was nourished with
the blood of human hearts. This belief led them to sacrifice many prisoners at their
temples. Some people were able to resist the Aztecs; the most powerful of these were
the Tlaxaltecas and the Purepechas.

The people were completely prepared for war and great emphasis was placed on the
creation of codexes and on the interpretation of the calendars, since both activities
were essential to religion and community life.

The codexes consist of writing and drawings made by the Mesoamerican people on
strips of deer skin, or on a kind of paper made from amate tree bark. Once finished,
these strips were folded like a concertina.

Although there were surely a large number of codexes, only a few were conserved.
Many were destroyed by the Spanish Conquistadors, and others were lost through
neglect or due to the fragile materials on which they were created.

The Aztec used pictographs to communicate through writing. Some of the pictures
symbolized ideas and other represented the sounds of the syllables. They made paper
by taking strips of bark from fig trees and pounding it on hard pieces of wood.

The administration of Tenochtitlan and its foreign provinces required a great deal of
paperwork. Taxes had to be collected, lawsuits between villages or private individuals
had all to be recorded, and the merchants kept accounts of their goods and profits.

Instructions and reports passed to and fro between the capital and the outlying cities,
and like any civilized people of today the Mexicans were familiar with both red tape
and official correspondence. The clans maintained land registers, and when Cortes
reached Tenochtitlan he had no trouble in procuring from the royal archive a map
showing all the rivers and bays along a 400-mile stretch of the north coast.

In addition each temple owned a library of religious and astrological works, while a
large private household, like that of Moctezuma, employed a full-time steward to look
after the accounts which were so many that they filled an entire house. Ixtiuxochiti, a
brother of the last native ruler of Texcoco, has left this account in the prologue to his
Historia Chichimeca.

They had scribes for each branch of knowledge. Some dealt with the annals, putting
down in order the things. which happened each year, giving the day, month, and hour.
Others had charge of the genealogies, recording the lineage of rulers, lords and
noblemen, registering the newborn and deleting those who had died.
Some painted the frontiers, limits, and boundary markers of the cities, provinces and
villages, and also the distribution of fields, whose they were and to whom they
belonged. Other scribes kept the law books and those dealing with the rites and
ceremonies which they practiced when they were infidels.

The priests recorded all matters to do with the temples and images, with their
idolatrous doctrines, the festivals of their false gods, and their calendars.

And finally, the philosophers and learned men which there were among them were
charged with painting all the sciences which they had discovered, and with teaching
by memory all the songs in which were embodied their scientific knowledge and
historical traditions.

In the law courts, especially those dealing with land and property rights, the disputants
supported their claims with genealogies and maps, showing the king's land in purple,
the lords' in red, and the clan fields in yellow.

Of this mass of paperwork hardly anything remains, and nearly all the surviving books
from the Aztec homeland are of post-Conquest date.

Some are copies of earlier works, while others are written in Aztec script with Spanish
or Nahuati commentaries in European letters.

The best collection of preConquest books comes from Oaxaca, the land of the
Mixtecs, where more than a dozen examples have been preserved.

Each book, or codex, consists of a strip, anything up to 13 yards in length and some 6-
7 inches high, made of paper, maguey cloth, or deer skin, and folded in zigzag or
concertina fashion like a modern map, so that wherever the user opened it he was
confronted by two pages.

The ends of the strip were glued to thin plaques of wood which served as covers and
were some-times decorated with paintings or with discs of turquoise. Both sides of the
strip were covered with writing and pictures, and the individual pages were divided
into sections by red or black lines.

Each page was normally read from top to bottom, though in some codices the
arrangement is zigzag or even goes around the page. The strip was scanned from left
to right.

This enormous production of documents was dependent on a steady supply of the raw
materials, and each year 24,000 reams of paper, the equivalent of 480,000 sheets, were
sent to Tenochtitlan. Aztec paper was made from the inner bark of various species of
fig tree. The bark was soaked in a river or in a bath of limey water, and the fibers were
separated from the pulp, then laid on a smooth surface, doubled over, and beaten with
a mashing stone which had a ridged surface.

A binding material (probably a gum of vegetable origin), was added, and the fibers
were beaten out into a thin, homogeneous sheet. After smoothing and drying, the
processed bark fibers had recognizably become paper, but the surfaces were still
porous and rough, unsuitable for painting until they had been given a coating of white
chalky varnish or size. On this background the scribe drew his figures, first sketching
the outlines in black, then adding the colors with his brush.

The principal colors were red, blue, green, and yellow, and the pigments were
sometimes mixed with an oil to give added luster. Scribes were respected craftsmen,
and the profession was probably hereditary.

The Aztecs wrote using symbols similar to the characters used by the Chinese and
Japanese. All the symbols were pictures of one kind or another. The symbols can be
thought of as ideograms in which the objects express their own natures but also the
underlying ideas and not concepts associated with them. Thus the idea of death can be
represented by a corpse wrapped for burial, night by a black sky and a closed eye, war
by a shield and a club, or speech by a little scroll issuing from the mouth of the person
who is talking. Concepts involving the idea of motion, walking, migration, or the
sequence of events were usually indicated by a trail of footprints going in the
necessary direction.

Aztec personal names were of the descriptive type which could usually be written in
glyphs. The name of the Emperor Acamapichtli means 'Handful of Reeds' and his
glyph is a forearm with the hand grasping a bundle of stalks. Chimalpopoca, the name
of the next ruler but one, means 'Smoking Shield', and his successor was Itzcoatl or
'Obsidian Snake'.

There was also a phonetic element in Aztec writing. Every word in spoken language
has a sound as well as a meaning, and glyphs were sometimes used to indicate the
phonetic value of a word rather than its sense. Thus, to give an example from English,
a drawing of an eye may be a pictogram (meaning the eye as part of the body), or an
ideogram (expressing the idea of sight and vision), or a phonogram (standing for the
sound 'I').

In the latter case, the eye symbol can be used, as a sort of pun, to indicate the first
person singular. It is possible to write the sentence, 'I can be hospitable', as a series of
phonetic glyphs: an eye, a tin can, a bee, a horse, a pit or hole, and a table. The Aztecs
applied the same technique to the writing of Nahuatl. Pictures were sometimes used
for their sound, without reference to their meaning. The symbol for teeth (tiantli in the
Aztec language) expressed the syllable 'tlan'; the glyph or tree or forest (quauill) stood
for the syllable 'quauh', a stone (tell) for 'te', a mountain (tepeti) for 'tepe', and so on.
Vowels were sometimes represented phonetically; the sound 'a' by the symbol for
water (all), or '0' by a road (olli).

Names of towns could be expressed by a combination of such phonograms. The sign

for the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was a stone (tell) from which sprouted a prickly
pear cactus (nochili); Tochtepecan was indicated by a rabbit (tochtli) above a
mountain (tepeti); quauhtitlan by a tree (quauitl) with teeth (tiantli), quauhnauac by a
tree with a speech scroll issuing from it (nahuall -speech).

These symbols were not placed in sequence, one after the other like the letters and
words in a book, but formed part of a larger composition which often took the form of
a scene in which many things may be happening at once. An Aztec manuscript is not
read in the normal sense of the word, but is deciphered like a puzzle picture in which
the glyphs provide. labels and clues to what is going on. The lower part of the picture
generally represents the ground, while the upper is the sky. Since the Aztecs had not
discovered the rules of perspective, distance is shown by placing the furthest figures at
the top of the page and the nearest at the bottom. Relative importance is indicated by
size: a victorious king, for example, may be drawn larger than his defeated enemy. All
figures are in profile, with no three-quarter views or fore-shortening.
Every item in a composition is there to give information, either directly or by
implication, and the painter assumes that the person examining the document is
familiar with the insignia of rank, the costumes appropriate to the various classes, and
the iconography of the different gods. A priest, for instance, is always depicted with
his face painted black, his hair long, and his ear-lobe stained red from blood-letting.
He can thus be recognized as a priest even when dressed in warrior 5 costume or plain
garb. In the same way, an old person can be recognized by the lines which represent
the wrinkles on his face.

Color was also important. The signs for grass, canes, and rushes look very much the
same in black and white, but in color there could be no mistake: in the Codex
Mendoza grass is yellow, canes are blue, rushes green. A ruler could be recognized at
once from the shape of his diadem and from its color, turquoise, which was reserved
for royal use.

A scribe who could keep pace with court proceedings had every reason to be proud of
his skill Aztec. Both writing and reading were therefore specialized skills, and it is no
wonder that the mass of the population remained illiterate. Writing was not taught in
the schools attended by plebeian children, and indeed the ordinary man would have no
need for it. In a bureaucratic and centralized society the common man received his
instructions from above, from the priests who looked after the religious side of his
life, or from the secular officials who were drawn from the nobility and had the
benefit of a calmecac education.


Most modern day Mexicans (and people of Mexican descent in other countries) are
mestizos, of mixed indigenous and European Spanish ancestry. During the 16th
century the racial composition of Mexico began to change from one that featured
distinct indigenous (Mexicas and members of the many other Mexican indigenous
groups) and immigrant (mostly Spanish) populations, to the population composed
primarily of mestizos that is found in modern day Mexico.

The Nahuatl language is today spoken by 1.5 million people, mostly in mountainous
areas in the states of central Mexico. Local dialects of Spanish, Mexican Spanish
generally, and the Spanish language worldwide have all been influenced, in varying
degrees, by Nahuatl. Some Nahuatl words (most notably chocolate and tomato) have
been borrowed through Spanish into other languages around the world.

Mexico City was built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, making it one of the oldest living
cities of America. Many of its districts and natural landmarks retain their original
Nahuatl names. Many other cities and towns in Mexico and Central America have also
retained their Nahuatl names (whether or not they were originally Mexica or even
Nahuatl-speaking towns). A number of town names are hybrids of Nahuatl and

Mexican cuisine continues to be based on and flavored by agricultural products

contributed by the Mexicas/Aztecs and Mesoamerica, most of which retain some form
of their original Nahuatl names. The cuisine has also become a popular part of the
cuisine of the United States and other countries around the world, typically altered to
suit various national tastes.

The modern Mexican flag bears the emblem of the Mexica migration legend.

Mexico's premier religious icon, the Virgin of Guadalupe has certain similarities to the
Mexica earth mother goddess Tonantzin.

For the 1986 FIFA World Cup Adidas designed the official match ball to show in its
"triades" Aztec architectural and mural designs.

Modern Views of the Aztec Culture

Laurette Sejourne, a French anthropologist, wrote about Aztec and Mesoamerican

spirituality. Her depiction of the Aztecs as a spiritual people was so compelling that
new religions have been formed based on her writings. Some parts of her work have
been adopted by esoteric groups, searching for occult teachings of the pre-Columbian
religions. Sejourne never endorsed any of these groups.

Miguel Leon-Portilla also idealizes the Aztec culture, especially in his early writings.

Others, such as Antonio Velazco, have transformed the writings by Sejourne and
Leon-Portilla into a religious movement. Antonio Velasco Pina has written three
books, Tlacaelel, El Azteca entre los Aztecas, La mujer dormida debe dar a
luz, and Regina. When mixed with the currents of Neopaganism, these books resulted
in a new religious movement called "Mexicanista". This movement called for a return
to the spirituality of the Aztecs. It is argued that, with this return, Mexico will become
the next center of power. This religious movement mixes Mesoamerican cults with
Hindu esoterism. The Mexicanista movement reached the peak of its popularity in the

Aztec Calendar


Animation of Native Time-keeping System follows the concepts as explained in the illustration
reprint directly below. The basis for this meshing-gear interpretive representation is derived from
Diego Duran's eyewitness statements and so configured to produce similar results. The icon
that is refered to as the Aztec Calendar is in fact from Toltec science arriving at Tenochtitlan
from Cholula in 1375, originating from Teotihuacan before that. It is the calendar of the Fifth
Sun, whose days were counted in darkness. It began when two self-sacrificing human
messengers were transformed into spirits and woke up the sun and moon, thus saving the
The Logical Method of this animation fully accounts for specific
workings of the basic time-keeping
scheme for pre-Columbian Native America. Shows dynamics of how two
calendars worked as one.
This animation program is written in Adobe Flash Actionscript. The file size is 200K

and downloads accordingly.

"Great and Venerable Mechanism of the Universe"

For those of you that would like to understand the Native Calendar a little better, there is an
animation at the bottom of the page that show how the gears turn. The first thing to realize is that
the calendar count was universal to the Americas, used by the Zapotec, Huastec, Toltec, Aztec,
Maya, Nahuas, etc... and utilizes the same mechanics. The Aztec Calendar is no less accurate
than the Mayan Calendar and conversely.
The Nahua legend of Quetzalcoatl tells of a single person responsible for teaching the calendar
count to migrants that came from the North. Apparently the folks from the South had been using
it longer. Since its very early days around 200 BC, the place we know as Teotihuacan, was tracking
time. Most likely the number 20 was used for an easy way to keep track of days with a finger and
toe counting system.

But what is harder to comprehend, is how the number 13 closely matches the prime dividend of a
complete cycle of the Earth's axis as it spins. This seems to capture the fundamental frequency or
pulse of the Earth in relationship to the general solar system. More specifically, a complete axis
precession takes 25,720 years, according to our best modern measurements. The 13 x 20 concept
yields 36,000 cycles of 260 to make up 25,625 years. That is a
very close correlation.

For a research tool, information that was gathered over the

course of 25 years was filtered down and compiled into
the Aztec Calendar Handbook. By having scattered facts in
one location, made it easier to sort through volumes of
seemingly disparate information. The book evolved as new
information could be meshed with the existing collection. The
3rd edition helped solve the "riddle" of the calendar, yielding
the 4th edition.
What we know about the advanced cultures of Mesoamerica is, they: .
1) Marked time by; 260 days, 360 + 5 days, 52 years + 13 days
2) Called the calendar; the Two that Is One
3) Were aware that our Sun was a star and the stars were other suns
4) Knew about the precession of the Earth's axis
5) Navigated oceans by the stars

While developing the mechanics for a working calendar, solving a simple gear problem brought
forth a breakthrough in the exactunderstanding of how these two calendars worked together,
which is explained below.

The Two That Is One . . . is what the day-counters called their calendar.
"Montezuma gave to Cortes, among many other vast treasures, a disk of gold that was the sun as
large as a
cartwheel and an equally large moon of silver. Cortes had them melted down into ingot." Bernal
Diaz .
What follows below is an animated diagram showing how two calendars
were used to generate a single date and how they calibrated each other.
260-day calendar cycles 365-day calendar cycles
This day-count is driven off the precession The secular or civil calendar is driven off
of the Earth's axis and continues unabated the 260 day calendar and calibrated yearly
. for 7200 cycles then repeats. and realigned every 52 years.
Press the START button to see the Native counting mechanism in action. Press the STOP button
anytime and re-START anytime to understand glyph management and the year designation
scheme. This animation is set at 1 fps.
If you don't want to wait:
Go directly to: NEMONTEMI (nameless days) Go directly to: XIUHMOLPILLI (52
year cycle)

Regarding the Native habit of sacrifice, the conquering Spanish Christians claimed to be appalled
at Aztec ritual cannibalism. But, they didn't think twice about the fact that to celebrate their God,
one must eat the body of Christ and drink His blood. In regard to Native sacrifices, those that
participated to get to heaven, mostly did so willingly. They left this life behind, to become one with
their god and to be a messenger for the people.

Aztec Life

Other Aztec related links:

 Mexica Culture

 Mexica Medicine

 Religion of the Modern Aztlan Movement

 Religion of the Mexica & Bibliography

 Major Deitites of the Mexica

 Minor Deitites of the Mexica

 Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity?

 The Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico

It was the Aztecs that were one of the main driving forces in destroying the Maya --
they "ate" their way through them.

Chichen Itza is not Maya -- it it Aztec -- Otza is Aztec.

A friend has been donated an incredible text about the conquering of Peten Itza --
Modern day Flores -- near Tikal -- that was set up by Chichen Itza - -and as was a
major Aztec base.
These were the places they gathered their captured "meat" for the long trek back to


There are many references to the total depravity of the Aztecs -- but here is a good
place to start:

Note -- this is but a small snipette -- it is a huge page!!

The Aztec were the America's version of the visigoths -- so to speak.

Even James Michener's classic about this area -- that starts in Cozumel -- give a good
description of what the Maya were turned into after a 100 years of Aztec domination.

In order for each village to be allowed to surfvie they has to supply - -as tribute -- so
many of their young each year -- as "cattle" to be marched off to Mexico and used for
Here is a scientific

12 May 1978
Vl. 200, No. 4342
pages 611-617

Aztec Cannibalism: An
Ecological Necessity?

The Aztec diet was adequate

in protein and cannibalism
would not have contributed

Bernard R. Ortiz de

According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213,

human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native
Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE
ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a
stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in
earthen jars being passed among Indians.

An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by

Bernard R. Ortiz de
Montellano can be
viewed on-line.

The Mexica people were

neurotic. Tenochtitlan was
the center of the empire and
the most neurotic. From birth
to the grave the typical
citizen of the empire lived in
a constant state of fear and
apprehension. Fear that at
any moment the earth would end violently or a wandering deity might inflict grave
illness. The smallest deviance from a well defined daily regiment may unleash
personal misfortune or an even greater wrath from the gods upon society as a whole.
The universe was in complete chaos. Even the sun's ability to rise each morning was
in doubt. The Aztec believed they were governed by fate and had no real control over
their daily lives. The concept of an afterlife was foreign and death was final(*40).

The Mexica world was full of omens, both good and bad. One had to constantly be
alert for signs and pay strict attention to daily routine and ritual. A bird singing, a
stone overturned, the sound of the wind - every aspect of nature was speaking and the
Aztec had to listen, intently. There was one religion and the earth was doomed.
Melancholy, pessimism, and dread engulfed the Aztec
mocking life itself.

Depression must have been everywhere and so

commonplace that it must have been thought of as a normal
condition. There was no happiness in Mexica society.
Childhood was a gauntlet of pain and self denial.
Adolescence was manipulated toward state behavior
control with sex used as a controlling weapon(*41).
Adulthood became a zombie like existence with obedience,
self blood letting, and deity worship at the core. Only if a
person was lucky enough to reach old age was there some
relief. At that time they were allowed to indulge themselves
with alcohol until death finally overcame them.

Society had developed into a ritualistic parody of free will.

The average man went about his daily routine as if
following a written script. Their religion was their purpose
in life. Success
in life certainly
was measured
in acquired wealth, however, the poorest
man who kept his routine was well
respected in his community. After all, even
wealth was pre-ordained by the gods and
luck or hard work had little or nothing to
do with it.

The Mexica citizen was surrounded by a

well ordered and structured society that
publicly displayed constant reminders that the world was in perpetual turmoil and may
perish at any moment and for no reason. The yearly calendar was one long festival
and daily reminder for the proper homage to the deities. As related by Diaz, Duran
and Sahagun, public displays of mass executions and torture were daily public events.

The daily routine was a constant regiment of ritual that included bloodletting and
sacrifice. A common misconception of the Mexica is they had no regard for human
life. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Mexica viewed human life and
blood as the most precious thing in nature. What better to offer the deities than the
most precious element they possessed? The collective effect of years of this type of
behavior and paranoia is immeasurable by our standards today. We must guess at the
consequences on the mental health of the average individual.

Many scholastic history books depict the Mexica as Nobel warriors, with a great and
powerful expanding society and as empire builders. It would be just as easy to depict
them as a nation of hopeless neurotics, letting blood from their genitals before leaving
their house in case a deity was offended, causing a giant rock to fall out of the sky and
kill them. They didn't just think this was possible, they believed it! What is worse is if
we are to believe such historians as Sahagun and Duran, that they taught these beliefs
to their children.

Imagine a society where a man rubs dead spiders on his skin, never takes a bath, and
keeps his hair matted(*42) with blood. This man even buys babies from your
neighborhood to rip their hearts out for the gods, and then eats the remaining parts.
Further imagine that you envy his job - because it's better than yours as a collector of
public excrement. There must have been someone who had the job to keep the heads
of people be-headed stuck on
poles and facing the proper
direction. Of even sillier note
someone had to interview
him for the position. "Tell
me, do you have any
experience in impaling a
blood dripping head on a
pole?" (I'll just bet someone
said they were a quick

The criminals of this society

were odd. Thieves would
actually carry around the
severed left arm of a woman who died in childbirth, and think they were invisible.
Worse yet, if one of them entered your house, you would pretend not to see them as
they made off with your property and assaulted your wife and daughters. These
thieves were invisible and if you could actually see them, you might be accused of a
type of heresy and killed yourself.

Leaving your house for a simple errand would add to your neurosis. Walking to the
public market on any given day you might witness public sacrifices, or have to dodge
a rolling head falling from the steps of a temple. Children being carried on litters up to
the mountains for sacrifice. Warriors and priests wearing the rotting skins of their
victims was another common public sight. Upon reaching the market you might
witness body parts for sale. There was no place in Mexica society that did not
constantly assault the common man with pageantry, blood and ritual.

How the human mind would develop and what psychiatric problems existed, no one
really knows, but we can suppose. We now universally accept that we are a product of
our environment and that environment shapes us into what we become as adults. We
now know that abused children are greatly pre-disposed to abuse their children in like
ways. The Mexica were conditioned from birth to follow orders and not question their
lot in life. Stress was ever present in their daily lives. We do know from records that
the Mexica suffered a host of stomach and intestinal ailments. It would not be difficult
to make a stress related argument for some of the causes of these disorders.

Where the physical side of Aztec health might be considered relatively good, the
mental health of the population might be thought of as poor. The average man was
melancholy and depressed. A prisoner of fate and destiny. Free will was nonexistent.
The average woman burdened with natural maternal drives that were in conflict with
masochistic societal pressure.

In some ways women fared

worse than men. Men could
always lose themselves in
combat and strictly male
oriented pursuits. Women
were forced to keep house
and their behavior quite
regulated. Women were
treated as little more than
slaves. Their sexual lives
were controlled as well as
their home life.
What is most frightening is the willingness of the parents to inflict this society on their
children. The worst case of child abuse you may be familiar with would pale in
comparison to the daily upbringing of children in Aztec society. The children were
raised in a world of real monsters, and their priests only too willing to kill and eat
them. The Mexica had to invent a deity to come to their children's beds at night and
help bring them sleep(*43), the nightmares must have been horrible.

We do know that these children grew to adulthood and must have brought a host of
mental problems with them. When it came time to start a family these disturbed adults
raised their children the only way they knew. They raised a new generation of
monsters. Generation after generation the Aztec added to their religious rituals. And
with each generation they evolved into even more neurotic creatures. There is no
model that we might judge them by.

The biological or "disease" side of mental illness is more difficult to speculate on.
Certainly the population carried a proportionate amount of illness to our own modern
civilizations. Where the correlation may tend to differ is the size of the gene pool that
carried these natural mental desires. Modern societies tend to isolate and control an
individual with anti-social characteristics. In our society they do not tend to reproduce
themselves in a disproportionate manner, in fact society may even act as a deterrence
to their reproduction.

In Mexica society any rational individual probably would have been quickly selected
for sacrifice and tended not to reproduce. The effect of generations of an anti-social
population breeding and weeding out what we may think of today as "normal" rational
people, certainly would contaminate the gene pool. This would result in a higher
national rate of biologically inherited mental diseases and illnesses.

We would consider the Mexica individual as insane by our modern standards. Mexica
society was certainly considered inhuman by many. The Spanish soon after the
conquest did everything in their power to burn the Mexica books and destroy any
trace of the Mexica civilization. The Spanish saw nothing worth preserving. It is only
by sheer luck that a handful of individuals, much after the conquest and in the nick of
time, recorded what little information survives(*44). Just what did the Spanish see?
40 A lucky few did, with proper behavior, go upon death to a land governed by a
particular deity.

41 Adolescent girls were

encouraged to publicly mock
boys that had not yet
captured a warrior in battle
for sacrifice. Sex was quite
out of the question for one
so weak in battle. It is highly
unlikely that the Aztec
teenagers were any different
physically than our own
society and this form of
control must have been the
driving force in their lives
during puberty.

42 It is believed that the priests did not wash their hair as a sort of penance or "giving
themselves to dirt" in honor of their gods.

44 By the time Duran and Sahagun began talking to old men and asking questions
about the old Aztec civilization, these old men had been well schooled in the concept
of heresy. Just how truthful these old men were in relating the true horror is not
known. An argument could be made that they only related enough to satisfy the

Other Aztec resources:

 Mexica Culture
 Mexica Medicine
 Religion of the Modern Aztlan Movement
 Religion of the Mexica & Bibliography
 Major Deitites of the Mexica
 Minor Deitites of the Mexica
 Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity?
 The Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico

Commons Island Community History Visitor Center Goods & Services Search Messages

Copyright by Casado Internet Group, Belize


, Mexico City
c Art
Cuauhxicalli Stone
Tlaltecuhtli statue

Chalchiuhtlicue (also Chalciuhtlicue, or Chalcihuitlicue) ("She of the Jade Skirt") was an Aztec goddess
of love, beauty, youth, lakes, rivers, seas, streams, horizontal waters, storms, and baptism. [1] Reputedly
universally revered at the time of the Spanish conquest, she was an important deity figure in
the PostclassicAztec realm of central Mexico.[2] Chalchiuhtlicue was also patroness of childbirth.[3] She
was also called Matlalcueitl by the Tlaxcalans, enemies of the Aztecs.,_page_222.jpg


Aztec Map with glyphs

Date: 18th or 19th century


A later copy of a historical map dealing with a migration of the Mexica, or Aztec,
from Tollan to Tenochtitlan. May be related to BNF MS. Mex. 85, cf. Geschichte der


Material and Layout: 1 item on modern leather; 320 x 920 mm.


There is a small label "942" on upper right corner.

Geschichte der Azteken: Der Codex Aubin und verwandte Dokumente. Guenter
Vollmer (ed.), Ibero-Amerikanischen Institut Pruessischer Kulturbesitz/Gebr. Mann
Verlag, Berlin.
Maya Painted Bowl
National Museum of Anthropology - Aztecs

Tonatiuh en jarre rouge
Ocelotl-Cuauhxicalli (Museo Nacional de Antropología)
Aztec gods- Coatlique (left) and Xiuhtecuhtli-
Huitzilopochtli (right)
Aztec Macuilxochitl (Xochipilli)
Aztec sacrificial knives
Aztec statue of Coatlicue, the earth goddess,_the_earth_goddess.jpg
Chalchiuhtlicue Maske
Cuauhxicalli de Moctezuma Ilhuicamina
Detroit Photographic Company
Diosas Chihuateteo
Tête de Quetzalcóatl
Model of Tenochtitlan
Olmeken - Wassergott

God of water from Tehuacan ( Puebla ), 900-1521 AD

Rekonstruktion Tempelbezirk von Tenochtitlan 2 Templo
Xiuhmolpilli commemorative sculpture marking the
completion of the 52-year cycle.

Related Interests