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  • Writer's pictureEliseo Sauceda

Thinking about: The Aztec

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

Aztec mask

Intro

This post focuses primarily on the roots of the Aztec civilization particularly the capital city-state Tenochtitlan, and how its origins tie into the capital city of Mexico, Present as well as connects Mexico’s name and the flag itself.





depths of Aztlan Background

The Aztecs were not native to the central Mexico region they occupied according to their mythology. They are said to have migrated from their homeland Atzlan around northwest Mexico and the southwest US. The Aztecs eventually settled in Lake Texcoco. The Aztecs were latecomers to the already developing cultures as they started to grow in what is considered the post-classic period.

The Aztecs from around 1100 AD to contact with the Spanish were developing their civilization to fit with their own culture and worldview. The development which started in the pre-classic period starting with the Olmec people then the Mayans and eventually the Aztecs.

The Aztecs are notorious mainly for the blood sacrifices and warring nature and for much time were considered pagan brutes who had yet to engineer and innovate civilized groups. This thought was dominantly supported by dogma to suppress their ingenuity and deliberately burned or distorted by the Spanish. It was not in the 19th and even 20th centuries that the Aztecs gained fewer reputations as savages and were seen as civilized people.


AZTEC origins



Another representation of leaving Aztlan

The Aztec name is sort of a misnomer as there was no one group acting as an empire of sorts, however, it is typically to represent the groups that existed in the post-classic period of central Mexico. Those other than Tnotchitlan were Texcoco and Tlacopan, bulleted in the above map. That group through a triple alliance established themselves as the most powerful and maintained relative autonomy like the groups around that city-state.

Focusing back on the Aztec name it comes from the city of Tenochtitlan, which again comes from ATzlan, where AZTEC comes from. The group who occupied Tenochtitlan called themselves the Mexica-

The Mexica, eventually settled within Lake Texcoco, building a Florence-like city center where people had gardens built on the lake(chinampas).

They are until then had not been utilized as a settlement. According to their mythology, the reason they resided there was after receiving a sign from the god Huitzilopochtli, who in the form of an eagle was sitting on top of a prickly peaSpansish contact


This is where Mexico's name comes from, the Mexica- people and their legend of the bird, being intensified on the flag.


Mexican flag



Spanish representation of Tenochtitlan.

Spanish conquest

The late discovery of the Aztecs partly comes from the effect of the Spanish conquest which was not only a physical attack on the people, their ways but worldview and spiritual connection in the goal to transmute them as subjects and followers of a monotheistic god.

Many Spanish cathedrals were deliberately built upon the vestiges or repurposing of old Aztec buildings temples and artifacts, along with the exporting of valuables back to the mainland. This was done to further destroy people’s connection to their own ways and have to face the present, knowing the past was displaced.




stone found at bottom of El Templor Mejor


Tenochtitlan ruins




This legend shows that the 3 bulleted cities which formed the alliance that is considered to be the Aztec Empire worked together through social cohesion in semi-autonomous city-states, to exert power over the region.

Tenochtitlan

Focusing back on the Aztec name it comes from the city of Tenochtitlan, which again comes from Aztlan, where then AZTEC comes from. The group who occupied Tenochtitlan called themselves the Mexica-

The Mexica, eventually settled within Lake Texcoco, building a Florence-like city center where people had gardens built on the lake(chinampas).

They are until then had not been utilized as a settlement. According to their mythology, the reason they resided there was after receiving a sign from the god Huitzilopochtli, who in the form of an eagle was sitting on top of a prickly pre-Spanish contact



codex depicting Huitzilopochtli eagle-eating snake


Huitzilopochtli eagle eating heart

At the zenith of the pyramid were two twin temples dedicated respectively to Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli.

The temple was used for ceremonial purposes and probably had restricted access to the elites of the aristocracy.


Now back to the city of Tenochtitlan



The city center of Tenochtitlan.

Tenochtitlan is impressive in itself starting from its location residing in Lake Texcoco. The city is Florence, Italy as It stands in the center of the lake. This served both as a natural fortress and sustenance ground to build the garden beds.

Inside of the city center itself was a city center sacred place, consisting of numerous buildings the biggest monument was a pyramid-shaped building known as the temple mayor.





Showing twin temples dedicated to Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc

Access to the city center and its buildings was restricted most likely to elites of aristocracy least internally while commoners may have gone more during cronies or other public ritual events.



tzompantli, also known as Aztec skull rack
Toads represent Tlaloc side of the pyramid.





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