Mesoamerica is a term used to describe the region roughly corresponding to modern day Mexico and Central America which was inhabited by various societies before Spanish colonization following the discovery by Christopher Columbus of the "New World."
Included in that new world was the Aztec Empire which dominated most of central Mexico as well as other territories in Mesoamerica from the early 14th century until the Spanish conquest in 1521.
The term Aztec is usually used to refer to the Nahuatl-speaking people of central Mexico, but more specifically it describes the Mexica people who built Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Aztec Empire, and the inhabitants of its allies, the Acolhuas of Texcoco and the Tepanecs of Tlacopan.
Modern day Mexico City was built on the ruins of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. A majority of modern day Mexicans are mestizos a term used to describe a person of combined European and indigenous descent. The Nahuatl language of the Aztecs has been spoken in central Mexico since at least the seventh century CE and is still spoken by approximately 1.7 million people primarily in the mountainous regions of Mexico.
My introduction to this awesome indigenous culture include the following accomplishments of the Aztec which I find particularly worthwhile sharing. So if you are ready, let's meet the Aztecs!
The Mexica were migrants who arrived in the Valley of Mexico around 1250 AD and founded the city of Tenochtitlan in 1325 AD. Initially they allied with and paid tribute to Azcapotzalco, the capital city of the Tepanec Empire. In 1426, the Azcapotzalco king arranged the assassination of the Mexica ruler. The following year Tenochtitlan allied with the city-states of Texcoco, Tlacopan, and Huexotzinco to wage war against Azcapotzalco. They emerged victorious in 1428.
After the war, Huexotzinco withdrew. The other three city-states formed the Triple Alliance with Tenochtitlan soon becoming the dominant power. The alliance waged wars of conquest and expanded rapidly after its formation. At its heights, the Triple Alliance or the Aztec Empire controlled most of central Mexico as well as other territories.
#2 THE AZTECS WERE HIGHLY SKILLED ENGINEERS
Tenochtitlan was the capital city of the expanding Aztec empire during the 15th century. Founded in 1325 Tenochtitlan became the largest city in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica until it was captured by the Spanish in 1521. Today the ruins of Tenochtitlan are located in historic center of the Mexican capital.
The Templo Mayor (Spanish for "Greater Temple") which was called Hueteocalli by the Aztecs dominated the central sacred precinct of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. Topped by twin temples dedicated to the war god Huitzilopochtli and the rain god Tlaloc it was a focal point of the Aztec religion and the very center of the Aztec world. Construction began sometime after 1325 and it was rebuilt six times.
The Temple Major was destroyed by the Spanish in 1521 in order to make way for their cathedral which they wanted built on its site and which is still located on the Plaza de la Constitucion (the main square) of Mexico City as seen below.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heavens (Spanish: Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos) is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico.
#5 THE AZTECS HAD GREAT KNOWLEDGE OF MEDICINE AND
Aztec physicians, known as tictils, were accomplished herbalists who also did medicinal research. They had a great knowledge of herbs and plants and apart from using them for prophetic and religious activities, they also used them in medicine. Aztecs also used traction to help reduce the affect of fractures and sprains and splints to immobilize fractures. After a surgical procedure they often covered the wound with crushed plants to aid the healing process.
#6 THE AZTECS HAD A RICH TRADITION OF POETRY, SCULPTURE, AND MUSIC
From the ages of twelve to fifteen all children were required to attend schools where they were taught ceremonial songs, history, and the culture of their civilization. Boys and girls attended different schools. Formal education for the girls usually ended at the age of fifteen.
There were two schools for the boys after the age of fifteen: the Telpochcalli, which was the school for the poor and was primarily military in nature, but also included civics, history, and religion. And the Calmecac which was the school for the nobles which also included military training, but also the study of religion, governing, astronomy, math, architecture, and history.
The above accomplishments are just a few of the many accomplishments of the Aztecs, but were some of my favorites. I am definitely looking forward to a return trip to the incredible Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City to revisit and spend more time with the Aztecs. In the meantime the following link will magically transport you to this outstanding museum:
MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY MEXICO CITY BLOG POSTING
FIESTA DE LOS CONCHEROS
thank you for joining me in this introduction to the Aztecs and their awesome accomplishments. Be forewarned: I have developed more than a slight obsession with the Aztec culture and I look forward to sharing more of the Aztecs with you in the near future. Until then, I wish you well wherever your travels and adventures may take you.