A pesar de conocerlos de nombre y como ancestros en común de muchos habitantes de nuestra región, hay muchas cosas que aún no sabemos de los Aztecas como civilización, y de cómo vivían su día a día.
¿Qué tenemos que saber de ellos? Acá nos plantearemos unas cuantas preguntas que todos nos hemos hecho sobre esta icónica civilización mesoamericana.
Primero que nada, ¿Qué son los Aztecas?
Conocidos también como Mexicas, los aztecas son los fundadores iniciales de México y de Tenochtitlán, su capital, en donde se encuentra actualmente la Ciudad de México. El imperio Mexica es considerado uno de los imperios prehispánicos más grandes de toda América Latina, junto a los Mayas y a los Incas.
The Aztec language is called Nahuatl, and is actually still spoken by about 1.5 million people in various mountainous and rural regions of Mexico. Modern-day Mexican Spanish incorporates several Nahuatl loan words, as well. There are towns and other geographical features named after famous rulers like Moctezuma as well. Some common words in English even have Nahuatl roots. “Avocado,” for example, is a Nahuatl loan word, as are “tomato,” “coyote,” “axolotl,” “chili,” and (perhaps most importantly) “chocolate.”
The Aztecs fell prey to the same colonization that swept through North and South America after Columbus. They found themselves beset on all sides; on one side, the colonizers brought new diseases with them, which killed off Aztec people in staggering numbers. Smallpox in particular weakened the population and contributed directly to the fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521.
Many of the soldiers who were still alive were sick with smallpox while they were trying to fight off the Spaniards, giving the latter a distinct advantage on the battlefield. On another side, the Spaniards were taking advantage of Moctezuma, who believed that Cortes was the Mayan and Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, who in their mythology had left long ago across the sea with a promise to return someday. This is why he was so ready to obey Cortes’ orders and kill the military commanders, which led to the civil uprising in Tenochtitlan that left an opening for the Spaniards to move in with their superior armor and weaponry and finally conquer the weakened, divided city. After that, they did their best to convert the Aztec people to their own culture and religion, erasing much of what made the Aztecs a single, cohesive society.
The Aztecs were a Mesoamerican society that thrived from around the fourteenth century CE to the arrival of the Conquistadors in the mid-sixteenth century. Structurally, their society was very similar to most Western cultures around that time. They had nobility (called “pipiltin” in the Aztec language) and commoners, or ” macehualtin,” just like European countries had. Commoners worked the land, joined the army, and otherwise labored to support themselves and the nobility, who were responsible for governing the people and leading the militaries.
The Aztec civilization was primarily composed of three major cities. The capital was called Tenochtitlan and was located in the same place as modern-day Mexico City. The other two cities were called Texcoco and Tlacopan, which were also located in what is now known as Central Mexico.
Maize was the most important food in the Aztec diet. It was so important that their whole society revolved around the production and consumption of maize. Apart from that, their diets were largely plant-based, with a little meat. Even their human sacrifice and cannibalism, which could technically be included as part of their diet, revolved around maize.
While Mayan civilization coexisted with Aztec civilization, it was much older, dating as far back as 2000 BC and possibly even farther. The Mayans were responsible for many of the developments that shaped Aztec culture.
The Aztec civilization was officially founded in the 1300s when the Mexica people and a couple of other tribes had settled in Central Mexico, formed cities, and, the three major cities banded together to form a larger society. This society grew and flourished in the pre-Columbian period, which is the time before Christopher Columbus came to the Americas to conquer and colonize. When the conquistadors began to arrive and conquer, the Aztec society was weakened more and more.