Here is a sixteenth-century Spanish description:
The people of this land are well made, rather tall than short. They are swarthy as leopards (see below), of good manners and gestures, for the greater part very skillful, robust, and tireless, and at the same time the most moderate men known. They are very warlike and face death with the greatest resolution.
Both leopards and jaguars are not usually dark (swarthy), the writer must therefore be referring to those that are melanistic (completely black or very dark), they are known as black panthers.
Alonso de Zorita wrote of the Mexicans: these people are by nature very long-suffering, and nothing will excite or anger them. They are very obedient and teachable. The more noble they are, the more humility they display. This description suggests a meek and spineless people, very different from the Aztecs of popular imagination who are forever shedding blood on either the altar or the battlefield. The contradiction, however, is more apparent than real.
On the one hand the Mexicans showed what Parry has called 'a very high degree of social docility-the willing submergence of the individual in the personality of the tribe', but against this must be set a streak of personal individualism with a tendency towards violence and extremism. In a military state like Tennochtitlan physical bravery was taken for granted, and death in battle was something to look forward to. As a Mexican poet put it: There is nothing like death in war, nothing like the flowery death so precious to Him who gives life: far off I see it: my heart yearns for it!
The Aztec were a Nahuatl-speaking people who in the 15th and early 16th centuries ruled a large empire in what is now central and southern Mexico. The Aztec are so called from Aztlán (“White Land”), an allusion to their place of origin, probably in northern Mexico. They were also called the Tenochca, from an eponymous ancestor, Tenoch, and the Mexica, probably from Metzliapán (Moon Lake), the mystical name for Lake Texcoco. From “Tenochca” was derived the name of their great city, Tenochtitlán; and from “Mexica” came the name for the city that superseded the Aztec capital and the surrounding valley. This name was applied later to the whole Mexican nation. The Aztec referred to themselves as Culhua-Mexica, to link themselves with Colhuacán, the sacred city of the Toltec, and in their belief, the center of the most civilized people of the Valley of Mexico.
The origin of the Aztec people is uncertain, but elements of their own tradition suggest that they were a tribe of hunters and gatherers on the northern Mexican plateau before their appearance in Mesoamerica in perhaps the 12th century. Aztlán, however, may be legendary. It is possible that their migration southward was part of a general movement of peoples that followed, or perhaps helped trigger, the collapse of the Toltec civilization.
Aztec culture is generally grouped with the cultural complex known as the nahuas, because of the common language they shared. According to legend, the various groups who were to become the Aztecs came from the north into the Anahuac valley around Lake Texcoco.
|The Nahua peoples are supposed to have originated in what is now the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. They split off from the other Uto-Aztecan peoples and migrated into central Mexico at some point around 500 A.D. They settled in and around the Basin of Mexico and spread to become the dominant people in central Mexico. Some important Mesoamerican civilizations were of Nahua ethnicity, for example, the Toltec and Aztec cultures, as well as the Tepaneca, Acolhua, Tlaxcaltec, Xochimilca, and many more.|
In the legend, the ancestors of the Aztec came from a place in the north called Aztlán, the last of seven nahuatlacas (Nahuatl speaking tribes from tlaca (man), to make the journey southward. The Aztec were said to be guided by their god Huitzilopochtli, meaning "Left-handed Hummingbird". When they arrived at an island in Lake Texcoco, they saw an eagle eating a snake while perched on a nopal cactus, a vision that fulfilled a prophecy telling them that they should found their new home on that spot. The Aztec built their city of Tenochtitlan on that site, building a great artificial island, which today is the center of Mexico City. This legendary vision is pictured on the Mexican flag.
According to legend, when the Aztec arrived in the Anahuac valley around Lake Texcoco, they were considered by the other groups as the least civilized of all, but the Aztec decided to learn, and they took all that they could from other peoples, especially from the ancient Toltec (whom they seem to have partially confused with the more ancient civilization of Teotihuacan). To the Aztec, the Toltecs were the originators of all culture; "Toltecayotl" was a synonym for culture. Aztec legends identify the Toltecs and the cult of Quetzalcoatl with the mythical city of Tolan, which they also seem to have miss-identified; it too was also of the more ancient Teotihuacan.
Quetzalcoatl is derived from the Olmec feathered serpent
Because the Aztec adopted and combined several traditions with their own earlier traditions, they had several creation myths; one of these describes four great ages preceding the present world, each of which ended in a catastrophe. Our age – Nahui-Ollin, the fifth age, or fifth creation – escaped destruction due to the sacrifice of a god (Nanahuatl, "full of sores", the smallest and humblest of the gods) who was transformed into the Sun. This myth is associated with the ancient city of Teotihuacan, which was already abandoned and destroyed when the Aztec arrived. Another myth describes the earth as a creation of the twin gods Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl. Tezcatlipoca lost his foot in the process of creating the world and all representations of this god show him without a foot and with a bone exposed. Quetzalcoatl is also called "White Tezcatlipoca".
After the fall of Tula (Toltec city), in the 12th century A.D., in the valley of Mexico and surrounding area, there were several city states of Nahua-speaking people: Cholula, Huexotzingo, Tlaxcala, Atzcapotzalco, Chalco, Culhuacan, Xochimilco, Tlacopan, etc. None of them was powerful enough to dominate the other cities, all of them were proud of their Toltec heritage. Aztec chronicles describe this time as a golden age, when music was established, people learned arts and craft from surviving Toltecs, and rulers held poetry contests in place of wars. In the 13th and 14th centuries, around the Lake Texcoco area in the Anahuac Valley, the most powerful of these city-states were Culhuacan to the south, and Azcapotzalco to the west. Their rule extended over all the area around Lake Texcoco.
As a result, when the Mexica (Aztecs) arrived in the Anahuac valley as a semi-nomadic tribe, they had nowhere to go. They established themselves temporarily in Chapultepec, but this was under the rule of Azcapotzalco, the city of the "Tepaneca", and they were soon expelled. They then went to the zone dominated by Culhuacan and, in 1299, the ruler Cocoxtli gave them permission to settle in Tizapan, a rocky place where no one wanted to live. They began to acquire as much culture as they could from Culhuacan: they took and married Culhuacan women, so that those women could teach their children.
|The Anahuac valley = The Valley of Mexico: it is a highlands plateau in central Mexico roughly coterminous with the present-day Distrito Federal and the eastern half of the State of Mexico. Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, the Valley of Mexico was a centre for several pre-Columbian civilizations, including Teotihuacan, the Toltec, and the Aztec. The ancient Aztec term Anahuac (Land Between the Waters) and the phrase Basin of Mexico are both used at times to refer to the Valley of Mexico.|
In 1323, they asked the new ruler of Culhuacan “Achicometl”, for his daughter in order to make her the goddess Yaocihuatl. Achicometl unknowingly complied with their request: the Mexica sacrificed her. The people of Culhuacan were horrified and expelled the Mexica. Forced to flee Culhuacan: in 1325 they went to a small islet in the center of Lake Texcoco, where they began to build their city "Mexico - Tenochtitlan", eventually creating a large artificial island. After a time, they elected their first Tlatoani named Acamapichtli, following customs learned from the Culhuacan. Another Mexica group later settled on the northern shore: this would become the city of Tlatelolco. Originally this was an independent Mexica kingdom, but eventually it merged with the islet Tenochtitlan.
During this period, the islet was under the jurisdiction of Azcapotzalco, and the Mexica had to pay heavy tributes to stay there. Initially, the Mexica hired themselves out as mercenaries in wars between Nahuas, breaking the balance of power between these older city-states. Eventually they gained enough glory to receive royal marriages. Mexica rulers Acamapichtli, Huitzilihuitl and Chimalpopoca were in 1372–1427, vassals of Tezozomoc, a lord of the Tepanec Nahua. When Tezozomoc died, his son Maxtla assassinated the Mexica ruler Chimalpopoca. His uncle Itzcoatl, who was an illegitimate son of the first Emperor Acamapichtli, was elected king. Itzcoatl immediately sought assistance from the ex-ruler of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl.
Acolmiztli Nezahualcoyotl was the son of Ixtlilxochitl I and Matlalcihuatzin, the daughter of Huitzilihuitl. Nezahualcoyotl's father had set Texcoco against the powerful city of Azcapotzalco, ruled by the Tepanec. In 1418, when the young prince was fifteen, the Tepanecs, led by Tezozomoc, conquered Texcoco, and Nezahualcoyotl had to flee into exile in Huexotzinco, he moved to Tenochtitlan in 1422. After Tezozomoc's son Maxtla became ruler of Azcapotzalco, Nezahualcoyotl returned to Texcoco, but had to go into exile a second time when he learned that Maxtla plotted against his life.
This picture is presented for no other reason, than to demonstrate how Whites use fake and falsified artifacts to distort history.
When Itzcoatl requested help against the Tepanecs, Nezahualcoyotl envisioned an opportunity to form a single military force to fight the mighty kingdom of Atzcapotzalco. After being offered support from insurgents inside Acolhuacan, and rebel Tepanecs from Coyohuacan, Nezahualcoyotl joined the war. He called for a coalition composed of most of the most important cities of the time: Tenochtitlan, Tlacopan, Tlatelolco, Huexotzingo, Tlaxcala and Chalco. Once declared a shared war, and a single effort, the coalition army of more than 100,000 men, under the command of Nezahualcoyotl, and other important tlatoanis, headed towards Azcapotzalco from the city of Calpulalpan. A military offensive that in 1428 would reconquer Acolhuacan, capital city of the kingdom of Texcoco.
The gigantic army was divided into three parts. One army attacked Acolman to the north and the second Coatlinchan to the south. A contingent led by Nezahualcoyotl himself was intended to attack Acolhuacan, just after providing support upon request by any of the first two armies. The coalition conquered Acolman and Otumba, sacking them only due to the sudden Tepanec siege of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco.
In a tactical move, the split armies united again and then divided into two. One of them, under Nezahualcoyotl again, headed towards Texcoco laying siege over Acolhuacan on its way, while the other attacked and destroyed Azcapotzalco. At the time the armies met again, Nezahualcoyotl reclaimed Texcoco and decided to conquer Acolhuacan, enteering from the North while the Tenochca and Tlacopan allies coming from Azcapotzalco attacked from the south. The two armies simultaneously attacked the north and south of Acolhuacan until they gained dominance of the city's main square. After their victory, the coalition began a series of attacks to isolated Tepanec posts throughout the territory of Texcoco. The defeat of the Tepanecs, and the end of the kingdom of Azcapotzalco, gave rise to the Aztec "Triple Alliance" between Texcoco, Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan, that came to dominate the Valley of Mexico, and then extended its power beyond. Tenochtitlan gradually became the dominant power in the alliance. Nezahualcoyotl, was finally crowned Tlatoani of Texcoco in 1431.
|Texcoco, not to be confused with the lake: was a major Acolhua city-state in the central Mexican plateau. It was situated on the eastern bank of Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico, to the northeast of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan. Pre-Columbian Texcoco is most noted for its membership in the Aztec Triple Alliance. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, it was one of the largest and most prestigious cities in central Mexico, second only to the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.|
Itzcoatl's nephew Motecuhzoma I inherited the throne in 1449 A.D, and expanded the realm. His son Axayacatl (1469) added the surrounding kingdom of Tlatelolco. His sister was married to the tlatoani of Tlatelolco, but as a pretext for war, he declared that she was mistreated. He went on to conquer Matlazinca and the cities of Tollocan, Ocuillan, and Mallinalco. He was defeated by the Tarascans in Tzintzuntzan (the first great defeat the Aztecs had ever suffered), but recovered and took control of the Huasteca region, conquering the Mixtecs and Zapotecs.
In 1481 A.D, Axayacatl's son Tizoc ruled briefly, but he was considered weak, so possibly he was poisoned, and he was replaced by his younger brother Ahuitzol who had reorganized the army. The empire was at its largest during his reign. His successor was Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (better known as Moctezuma II), who was tlatoani when the Spaniards arrived in 1519.
The society traditionally was divided into two social classes; the macehualli (people) or peasantry and the pilli or nobility. Nobility was not originally hereditary, although the sons of pillis had access to better resources and education, so it was easier for them to become pillis. Eventually though, this class system took on the aspects of a hereditary system. The Aztec military had a core of full time professional warriors. An Aztec became a pilli through his abilities in war. Only those that had taken prisoners could become full-time warriors, and eventually the honors and spoils of war would make them pillis.
Once an Aztec warrior had captured 4 or 5 captives, he would be called tequiua and could attain a rank of Eagle or Jaguar knight, sometimes translated as "captain", eventually he could reach the rank of tlacateccatl or tlachochcalli. To be elected as tlatoani, one was required to have taken about 17 captives in war. When Aztec boys attained adult age, they stopped cutting their hair until they took their first captive; sometimes two or three youths united to get their first captive; then they would be called iyac. If after a certain time, usually three combats, they could not gain a captive, they became macehualli (common folk); it was shameful to be a warrior with long hair, indicating lack of captives; one would prefer to be a macehualli.
The abundance of tributes led to the emergence and rise of a third class that was not part of the traditional Aztec society: pochtecas or traders. Their activities were not only commercial: they also were an effective intelligence gathering force. They were scorned by the warriors, who nonetheless sent to them their spoils of war in exchange for blankets, feathers, slaves, and other presents.
The Aztec Empire is not completely like the empires of European history. 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. Arnold Toynbee in War and Civilization analogizes it to the Assyrian Empire in this respect.
Although cities under Aztec rule seem to have paid heavy tributes, excavations in the Aztec-ruled provinces show a steady increase in the welfare of common people after they were conquered. This was probably due to an increase of trade, thanks to better roads and communications. Only the upper classes seem to have suffered economically, and only at first. There appears to have been trade even in things that could be produced locally: love of novelty may have been a factor.
The most important official of Tenochtitlan government is often called The Aztec Emperor. The Nahuatl title, Huey Tlatoani (plural huey tlatoque), translates roughly as "Great Speaker"; the tlatoque ("speakers") were an upper class. This office gradually took on more power with the rise of Tenochtitlan. By the time of Auitzotl "Emperor" is an appropriate analogy, although as in the Holy Roman Empire, the title was not hereditary.
Most of the Aztec empire was forged by one man, Tlacaelel (Nahuatl for "manly heart"), who lived from 1397 to 1487. Although he was offered the opportunity to be tlatoani, he preferred to stay behind the throne. Nephew of Tlatoani Itzcoatl, and brother of Chimalpopoca and Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina, his title was "Cihuacoatl" (in honor of the goddess, roughly equivalent to "counselor"), but as reported in the Ramírez Codex, "what Tlacaellel ordered, was as soon done". He gave the Aztec government a new structure, he ordered the burning of most Aztec books (his explanation being that they were full of lies) and he rewrote their history.
Tlacaelel thus created a new history for the Aztecs. He also created the institution of ritual war (flowery war) as a way to maintain trained warriors, and supply the necessary people for sacrifices to keep the Sun moving. A flower war (or more correctly, flowery war) from the Nahuatl xochiyaoyotl; was among the Aztec, a planned war in which the objective was not to kill enemies or conquer territory, but rather to capture as many prisoners as possible, who would then be sacrificed in religious ceremonies and maybe eaten. On account of this institution, Aztec warriors were trained to prefer capturing their enemies in battle, rather than killing. For the Aztec warriors, providing blood for the gods was a sacred duty and it was a noble occupation. In the Aztec world, flowers and feathers were the most precious things, so the word "flower" means "precious" and it was used as an descriptor for the activity of sacred war. The blood flowing from a wound was described as a flower of war.
These sacred wars were planned for both sides involved, though not necessarily willingly, and the participants had to be nahuas. Sometimes the rulers of the cities at war were invited to the sacrifice of their own people. After the aztecs conquered most of the nahuatl speaking cities, the cities states of Tlaxcala and Huexotzingo were spared, but with the obligation of participating in the flowery wars.
In all the Mesoamerican cultures, blood had a very important place. Blood was provided not only by human sacrifice, but also by self-sacrifice. Tlacaelel made changes so that it became a constant necessity to offer blood to restore the blood the sun lost in his daily battle against the darkness. Every 52 years there was the possibility the world would end. They did not believe it was necessarily a daily sacrifice, but they did believe human sacrifice would postpone indefinitely the defeat of the sun. In a way the Aztecs considered it their duty to maintain the world.
And so stood the Aztec Empire when Montezuma II at the age of 36 (in 1502), succeeded his uncle Ahuitzotl, as the ninth Aztec emperor of Mexico. By now the Aztec Empire had reached its greatest extent, stretching to what is now Honduras and Nicaragua. But below the surface, the Aztec Empire was fragile. The Aztecs bloodlust and ever-increasing demands for tribute had to eventually have consequences. And so it was that when Montezuma was still a boy of five years old, another boy was born in a land across the ocean. That boys name was Christopher Columbus, and his arrival would mean the beginning of the end for the Aztec.
Hernando Cortes was born in 1485 into a Medellin family of minor nobility in southwestern Spain, Cortes briefly studied law before sailing from his homeland to the New World at the age of nineteen to seek his fortune. After several years as a gentleman farmer on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, in 1511, Cortes joined the military expedition of Diego de Velazquez that went on to capture Cuba. After the victory, Cortes became the mayor of Santiago and married the sister-in-law of Velazquez.
In 1518, Velazquez gave Cortes permission to form a small force with a fleet of eleven ships, about 550 men, 20 horses and 10 cannon to conduct an exploration of Mexico, which the Spaniards had first visited the previous year in 1517. Velazquez however, began to regret his instructions as he grew apprehensive of Cortes's ambitions and attempted to rescind his orders. His actions, however, were too late to stop Cortes from sailing westward in February 1519. Cortes explored the Yucatan coastline before landing at the region of Totonacapan, which was subject to Aztec military incursions. Despite the establishment of Aztec fortifications throughout the region, rebellion was endemic.
The Major Totonac centers were Papantla, with an estimated population of 60,000 in 1519, Xalapa (around 120,000), and Cempoala (around 80,000). Cempoala was the first major center encountered by Cortés . The Totonacs of Cempoala told Cortes of the great and rich empire of the Aztec people further inland. (It is at this time that Cortes is offered twenty young women as his slaves, one of them is an Aztec maiden, later to be known as Malinche, she will serve as his interpetor with the Aztec, her story is at the end of this section).
The Totonacs joined forces with Cortés, and moving inland, there they encountered the second power of the region, the Tlaxcalans, who briefly engaged them in battle, but suffering heavy losses, soon decided to ally with them against their traditional enemy, the Aztec.
Both the Totonacs and the Tlaxcalans probably after consideration, saw the Spanish as a God-sent. The Aztec “Flowery Wars” had claimed thousands of their people, and their hatred of the Aztec ran deep, as was evidenced by their reported savagery in their subsequent battles against the Aztec. As the army moved on toward Tenochtitlán, many of the local subordinate states also came to terms.
Cortes moved his force a short distance northward and established what became the port of Vera Cruz, as he made plans to advance against the Aztecs. To prevent his own force of less than six hundred men from deserting, because many feared venturing inland, Cortes burned his ships, leaving no means of escape.
In Tenochtitlan Montezuma hears of the pale invaders (In all non-white cultures, whiteness or paleness is associated with loss of blood, sickness, death: so it is consistent that Montezuma would view these strange new creatures with pale skin, as dead gods returned to life). He considers Cortés to be Quetzacoatl, the great god who left Mexico many years before, on a raft of snakes, vowing to return. And who, according to legend, had taught them about agriculture and government, and whose return they were to welcome with great ceremony.
Also knowing of this Aztec myth (probably from Malinche) Cortes exploits the Aztec myth of a pale skinned, bearded god-king named Quetzalcoatl, as he approaches Tenochtitlan. Montezuma made a feeble attempt to stop Cortes, but his defenses lacked unity and tenacity, both because of the Quetzalcoatl legend, which dictated that his people should welcome the return of the "white god," and the fear generated by the sight of Spanish horses and firearms, which the Aztecs had never seen before.
There are contradictory reports of what happened at Cholula. Moctezuma had apparently tried to stop the advance of Cortés and his troops, and it seems that he ordered the leaders of Cholula to try to stop him. Cholula had a very small army, since as a sacred city, they put their confidence in their prestige and their gods.
La Malinche told Cortés, after talking to the wife of one of the lords of Cholula, that the locals planned to murder the Spaniards in their sleep and although he did not know if the rumor was true or not, Cortés ordered a pre-emptive strike. After Cortés arrived in Cholula he seized their leaders Tlaquiach and Tlalchiac and then ordered the city set fire. The troops started in the palace of Xacayatzin, and then on to Chialinco and Yetzcoloc. In his letters, Cortés claimed that in three hours time his troops (helped by the Tlaxcalans) killed 3,000 people and burned the city. Another witness, Vázquez de Tapia, claimed the death toll was as high as 30,000.
The massacre had a chilling effect on the other Mesoamerican cultures and on the Mexica themselves. The tale of the massacre inclined the other cultures in the Aztec empire to submit to Cortés' demands rather than risk the same fate.
Cortés then sent emissaries to Moctezuma with the message that the people of Cholula had treated him with disrespect and had therefore been punished. Cortés' message continued that the Aztecs need not fear his wrath if Moctezuma treated him with respect and gifts of gold.
According to the Aztec chronicles recorded by Sahagún, the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II welcomed him with great pomp. Sahagún reports that Moctezuma welcomed Cortés to Tenochtitlan on the Great Causeway into the "Venice of the West" According to Sahagún's manuscript, Moctezuma personally dressed Cortés with flowers from his own gardens, the highest honour he could give, although probably Cortés did not understand the significance of the gesture.
Moctezuma had the palace of his father Axayácatl prepared to house the Spanish and their 3000 native allies. Cortés asked Moctezuma to provide more gifts of gold to demonstrate his fealty as a vassal of Charles V. Cortés also demanded that the two large idols be removed from the main temple pyramid in the city, the human blood scrubbed off, and shrines to the Virgin Mary and St. Christopher be set up in their place. All his demands were met. Cortés then seized Moctezuma in his own palace and made him his prisoner as insurance against Aztec revolt, and demanded an enormous ransom of gold, which was duly delivered.
Pizarro sent an embassy to the Inca, led by Hernando de Soto with 15 horsemen and an interpreter; shortly thereafter he sent 20 more horsemen led by his brother Hernando Pizarro as reinforcements in case of an Inca attack. During the interview, the Spaniards invited Atahualpa to visit Cajamarca to meet Francisco Pizarro; the Inca promised to go the following day. In the town, Pizarro prepared an ambush to trap the Inca: the Spanish cavalry and infantry occupied three long buildings around the plaza, while some musketeers and four pieces of artillery were located in a stone structure in the middle of the square. The plan was to persuade Atahualpa to submit to the authority of the Spaniards and, if this failed, there were two options: a surprise attack if success seemed possible or to keep a friendly stand if the Inca forces appeared too powerful.
The following day, Atahualpa left his camp at midday preceded by a large number of men in ceremonial attire; as the procession advanced slowly, Pizarro sent his brother Hernando to invite the Inca to enter Cajamarca before nightfall. Atahualpa entered the town late in the afternoon in a litter carried by eighty lords; with him were four other lords in litters and hammocks and 5-6,000 men carrying small battle axes, slings and pouches of stones underneath their clothes. The Inca found no Spaniards in the plaza, as they were all inside the buildings;the only one to come out was the Dominican friar Vicente de Valverde with an interpreter. Although there are different accounts as to what Valverde said, most agree that he invited the Inca to come inside to talk and dine with Pizarro. Atahualpa instead demanded the return of every single thing the Spaniards had taken since they landed. According to eyewitness accounts, Valverde then spoke about the Catholic religion but did not deliver the requerimiento, a speech requiring the listener to submit to the authority of the Spanish Crown and accept the Christian faith. At Atahualpa's request, Valverde gave him his breviary but after a brief examination, the Inca threw it to the ground; Valverde hurried back toward Pizzarro, calling on the Spaniards to attack. At that moment, Pizarro gave the signal; the Spanish infantry and cavalry came out of their hiding places and charged the unsuspecting Inca retinue, killing a great number while the rest fled in panic. Pizarro led the charge on Atahualpa but managed to capture him only after killing all those carrying him and turning over his litter. Not a single Spanish soldier was killed
On November 17 the Spaniards sacked the Inca army camp in which they found great quantities of gold, silver and emeralds. Noticing their lust for precious metals, Atahualpa offered to fill a large room about 22 feet (6.7 m) long and 17 feet (5.2 m) wide up to a height of 8 feet (2.4 m) once with gold and twice with silver within two months. It is commonly believed that the Inca offered this ransom to regain his freedom; however, it seems likelier that he did so to avoid being killed, as none of the early chroniclers mention any commitment by the Spaniards to free Atahualpa once the metals were delivered. One of the main events in the conquest of the Incan Empire was the death of Atahualpa, the last Sapa Inca on 26 July 1533 (a painting by Luis Montero)
Outnumbered and fearing an imminent attack from the Inca general Rumiñahui, after several months the Spanish saw Atahualpa as too much of a liability and decided to execute him. Pizarro staged a mock trial and found Atahualpa guilty of revolting against the Spanish, practicing idolatry and murdering Huáscar, his brother. Atahualpa was sentenced to execution by burning. He was horrified, since the Inca believed that the soul would not be able to go on to the afterlife if the body were burned. Friar Vicente de Valverde, who had earlier offered his breviary to Atahualpa, intervened, telling Atahualpa that if he agreed to convert to Catholicism, he would convince Pizarro to commute the sentence. Atahualpa agreed to be baptized into the Catholic faith. He was given the name Juan Santos Atahualpa. In accordance with his request, he was strangled with a garrote instead of being burned on July 26, 1533. Following his execution, his clothes and some of his skin were burned, and his remains were given a Christian burial.
Obviously, there is no point in going on:
Clearly, as is typical with Whites and their "made-up" histories, the above is not history, it is a canned recording of a few Whites, defeating thousands of non-Whites, brought out as the historical situation requires. In both cases, other sources indicate that the native allies of the Spanish numbered in the many tens-of-thousands, and it was THEY who conquered the Aztec and the Inca. In South America, some of these tribes were foolish enough to actually SUE the Spanish in SPANISH courts, for the rights and benefits that they were promised, but never received.
See below: Litigation over the Rights of “Natural Lords” in Early Colonial Courts in the Andes by JOHN V. MURRA.
by JOHN V. MURRA
INSTITUTE OF ANDEAN RESEARCH
IN THE EARLIEST DAYS OF THE EUROPEAN INVASION, when Inka resistance, potentially so threatening, turned out to be virtually absent (Lockhart 1972), the Pizarros acquired a steadfast ally, the Wanka/Cañaris lords. It was in their territory, Xauxa, that the Europeans established their first capital. Along with thousands of soldiers and bearers, the Canaris provided the newcomers with strategic information, plus the food and weapons stored in hundreds of warehouses built by the Inka and filled locally (Polo de Ondegardo 1940 ). In one region where the Inka had managed to cobble together some resistance, as at Huánuco, the Europeans had to call on Canaris troops to help them put down “the rebellion.” All this assistance provided the Europeans was recorded with care on a khipu Kept by the Canaris lords. This record was first described by Cieza de León, some fifteen years after the invasion. Such bookkeeping later became the subject of litigation initiated at the viceregal court, at Lima, by one of the lords who in 1532 had opened the country to the troops of Charles V (Murra 1975). This man, don Francisco Cusichac, felt betrayed by the ill treatment of his people and the neglect of his own privileges. The notion that his Canaris, and he along with them, were to be granted in encomienda to some European newcomer was shocking; Cusichac reasoned that if there were to be any encomenderos about, he Cusichac, was the most appropriate candidate (Espinoza Soriano 1972). By 1560 the Canaris had made many adjustments to European rule. The most notable was the intensive training of their sons in the new language and beliefs. Several of these bilingual young men, accompanied by their own, European-style notaries, traveled to Spain to petition at court for reward of past services from the emperor or his son (Espinoza Soriano 1972). Some of these “natural lords” were received by the monarch; some were granted coats of arms Spanish style. One of the petitioners requested that the crown grant him the right to sell and buy land, a privilege unknown in the Andes. By 1570, when the new viceroy, Francisco de Toledo, decided to conduct an inspection of the crown’s highland provinces, don Francisco Cusichac and his whole generation was dead. Their sons were now in charge, some of them very young men who some fifteen years earlier had met Charles V or his son, Philip, in Europe. The new viceroy called on all native authorities to display their European credentials and many did. Toledo ordered that the assembled parchments be burned. This was the beginning of a campaign against those lineages in the Andean elite that had collaborated with the invaders, an effort to destroy the European evidence of what the Spanish crown had once bestowed.
The only other group to be treated so harshly by Toledo were the descendants of another wing of the Andean elite who also sided from the earliest days with the invaders. These were the “sons” and heirs of Pawllu Thupa, the one Inka “prince” to make peace, early and openly, with the Europeans. Pawllu had helped them through extreme difficulties, particularly Almagro’s invasion of Chile. The efficiency of that thrust south was attributed by many to Pawllu Thupa’s ability to mobilize the lords of Charcas, the region known today as Bolivia. For his services, Pawllu had been allowed to keep “his Indians,” coca-leaf terraces, food-producing fields, and much other Inka wealth. A test came in 1550 at Pawllu’s death: various Europeans attempted to deprive the “Indian’s” heirs of these lands and people, but the emperor’s representative, Bishop LaGasca, resisted such claims. For the next two decades, Pawllu’s many sons were a distinguished and rich lineage in Cuzco. They spoke Spanish, invested in the long-distance coca-leaf trade to the mines at Potosí, and employed Europeans in their various enterprises. The main heir, don Carlos, was married to a European woman. Thirty-five years after the invasion, Pawllu Thupa’s heirs were the one group of Inkas at Cuzco who had managed to hang on to both status and wealth (Glave 1991).
When Toledo reached Cuzco on his way to the mines at Potosí, he selected Pawllu’s lineage for special attention. As at Xauxa, the lords were ordered to These grants are transcribed from the originals in the Archivo General de Indias, Seville: section Lima, legajo 567, lib. 8, fols. 107v–108r; see also other grants cited by Espinoza Soriano (1972). Letters from Francisco de Toledo to Philip II, found in the Biblioteca Nacional,Madrid. See Pawllu Thupa’s testament published in Revista del Archivo Histórico del Cuzco (1950: 275, 286).
Litigation over the Rights of “Natural Lords” display the credentials testifying to their services to the Spanish crown. The papers were publicly burned. Don Carlos and his kin were accused of maintaining illicit contacts with those Inka who had taken refuge at Vilcabamba, in the eastern lowlands (Kubler 1946). Some twenty of Pawllu Thupa’s heirs were put on trial for subversion; during the proceedings, which lasted many months, the princes were kept in animal corrals, exposed to the elements. The testimony was conducted in Quechua even though many of the accused spoke Spanish; a mestizo, one Gonzalo Gómez Ximénez, “interpreted” for the only record kept of the proceedings, despite Continuous protests by the accused. Ximénez’s version of what they had “confessed” became the official transcript. The “natural lords” were sentenced by Gabriel de Loarte to the loss of “their” Indians and of their coca-leaf fields, which were granted by Toledo to Loarte. Some twenty Inka, including aged princes, don Carlos, and several children, were deported on foot to Lima. From there they were supposed to be shipped into exile to Mexico.
Of the twenty, seven survived. They were able to rally support from some of the judges at the Audiencia who were hostile to the viceroy. Toledo remained in the highlands for almost another decade, the only viceroy to devote such personal attention to the Andean population. He sponsored many institutional innovations; some of them were consistent with ideas to end the Las Casas “benevolent” approach to Indian affairs, which he brought with him from court. He tried to put an end to the influence of Bishops Gerónimo de Loaysa of Lima and Domingo de Santo Tomás in Charcas, men from another era, who spoke Quechua and had earlier corresponded with Las Casas (Las Casas 1892).
Of the people Toledo consulted, the best informed were two Salamanca trained lawyers—Juan de Matienzo and Juan Polo de Ondegardo—who gave him diametrically opposed advice. Matienzo, a crown justice at the Audiencia of Charcas, was frequently active away from his court. Even before Toledo’s arrival in 1569, Matienzo had argued for the “extirpation” of the Inka lineage that had taken refuge in the forest at Vilcabamba. The high court in Lima was betting on a reduction policy, resulting in the conversion of the refugee princes and their resettlement at Cuzco. Matienzo thought such a policy was dangerous. Resettlement expanded the number of “natural lords”at Cuzco—a loss of revenues for the Spanish crown and the threat implicit in an additional focus of traditional loyalty (Matienzo 1967). After Toledo’s arrival, he and Matienzo formed an intimate alliance broken only by the judge’s death in 1579.
Most of this material comes from the Justicia legajo 465, a three-volume manuscript record of the litigation in Mexico, Archivo General de Indias, Seville. Some of it is quoted by Roberto Levillier (1921–26).
Matienzo had provided Toledo with a working understanding of the Andean system; it was Matienzo who designed the rotative mita system for recruiting the Andean labor force for the silver mines at Potosí, which was based on the Inka mit’a set up for the state cultivation of maize (Wachtel 1982). All efforts now were directed to improve the revenues of King Philip’s armies—be these active in Flanders or facing Constantinople by sea. Though trained at the same law school as Matienzo and proceeding from much the same social background, lawyer Polo de Ondegardo had a very different vision of the Andean world. One dimension of this perception was his much longer service in the region: he had arrived in 1540, some twenty years before Matienzo, at a time when Andean society was much closer to its aboriginal condition. He also never joined the court system, but held a variety of posts that brought him into daily contact with Andean realities: soldiering in the infantry, administering the newly discovered mines at Potosí, tracing the royal lineages at Cuzco, facing the dangers of lowland coca-leaf cultivation for highlanders, recognizing that ethnic groups resident at 3,800 m up in the Andes would also control people and fields at sea level. He noted the remarkable warehouse system continuously filled along the Inka highway; in pre-Toledo times he was frequently consulted by viceroys and settlers alike.
He had no ideological difficulty in recognizing that the descendants of King Thupa or of Wayna Qhapaq were, according to European rights, “natural lords.” While the two Salamanca alumni avoided head-on collisions, Polo did turn down the nomination by Toledo to repeat as governor of Cuzco. Unhappy with many of the decrees issued by the viceroy, Polo composed a book-length memorandum addressed to Toledo:“a report about the premises which lead to the notable harm which follows when not respecting the fundamental rights of the Indians . . .” (Polo de Ondegardo 1916 ).
In it he also argued against the resettlement policy dictated by Matienzo and Toledo: when resettled into compact reducciones, the ethnic groups were impoverished since they lost access to their outliers located at many faraway resource bases. Even should one want to make Christians of them, argued Polo, it is best to proceed taking into account their own “order.” Further clarification of this transitional period in Andean history came through my recent, 1990–91, “discovery” in the Archive of the Indies in Sevilla of a large (3,000–plus pages) set of files recording in detail the minutes of the trial at Cuzco of the “natural lord” don Carlos Inca. While this source had been quoted in print as early as the 1920s by the Argentine scholar Roberto Levillier (1921–26, 7: 192–193), it had remained Litigation over the Rights of “Natural Lords” Underutilized by anthropologists. It greatly expands our understanding of Cuzco social structure a generation after the invasion. There is much detail about the Kangaroo court run by Toledo and his chief aide, Judge Gabriel de Loarte. The doctor “inherited” the estates and subjects of the defendants. The later career of the interpreter, Gonzalo Ximénez, is also noted:a few years later he was burned at the stake in Charcas, accused of the pecado nefando, the abominable sin of homosexuality. The Inka princes had raised the issue unsuccessfully through out their “trial.”
While awaiting his fate in the Charcas jail,Ximénez is said to have expressed a desire to confess his perjury and to apologize for the harm done to don Carlos. Ximénez is alleged to have recorded this wish in writing. This confession has not been located in the Audiencia of Charcas papers; Dr.Barros de San Millán, a judge at that royal court, is said to have expressed a lively, if suspect, interest in locating this document, without success.
Barros deserves the attention of anthropologists interested in Andean history.Trained at Salamanca, as were our two other lawyers, his American career spans close to thirty years, serving at the royal courts of Guatemala, Panamá, Charcas, and Quito. Our first notice of him in Andean scholarship reached us a few decades ago, when Waldemar Espinoza, a Peruvian colleague, published an Aviso, author unknown. It was a petition, signed by a dozen or so ethnic lords of Charcas (today Bolivia) (Espinoza Soriano 1969); addressed to the king, it seemed to be dated from a moment late in Toledo’s reign. In it the Andean lords trace their lineages four or five generations back, when the Inka were alleged to have granted their ancestors lavish textiles and wives from court: “We were the dukes and the marquesses of this realm.”
They offered to assume additional duties at the Potosí mines but did not care to be assigned only labor-recruiting duties. The argument that they were “natural lords” was now restated away from Cuzco and under new colonial circumstances. The author of the memorandum remained unidentified for decades. It was clear that he was familiar with both administrative procedures at the mines and with the ethnic map of the southern Andes; he plainly enjoyed the trust of the Aymara lords.The memorandum has recently been the object of detailed study by a Franco-British team preparing a documentary collection to honor don Gunnar Mendoza, director of the National Archive of Bolivia.
(The woman depicted is obviously not an Aztec woman: but in that it depicts a woman of Mongol extraction, it more likely reflects "La Malinche's" true identity).
"La Malinche." Slave, interpreter, secretary, mistress, and mother of the first "Mexican." her very name still stirs up controversy. Many Mexicans continue to revile the woman called Doña Marina by the Spaniards and La Malinche by the Aztecs, labeling her a traitor and harlot for her role as the alter ego of Hernando Cortes as he conquered Mexico. Her ability to communicate also enabled the Spaniards to introduce Christianity. Herself a convert, baptized Marina, she was an eloquent advocate for her new faith.
All historians agree that she was the daughter of a noble Aztec family. Upon the death of her father, a chief, her mother remarried and gave birth to a son. Deciding that the son rather than Marina should inherit, the mother turned her young daughter over to some passing traders and thereafter proclaimed her dead. Eventually, the girl wound up as a slave of the Cacique (the military chief) of Tabasco. By the time Cortes arrived, she had learned the Mayan dialects used in the Yucatan while still understanding Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs and most Non-Mayan Indians. La Malinche was offered to Cortes as a slave by the Cacique of Tabasco, along with 19 other young women. Up till then, Cortes had relied on a Spanish priest, Jeronimo de Aguilar, as his interpreter. Aguilar had been shipwrecked off Cozumel, while waiting for rescue he had learned the Mayan language. But when the expedition left the Mayan-speaking area, Cortes discovered that he could not communicate with the Indians.
That night he was advised that one of the women given to him in Tabasco spoke "Mexican." Doña Marina now enters Mexican history. It was she who served as the interpreter at the first meetings between Cortes and the representatives of Moctezuma. At that time Marina spoke no Spanish. She translated what the Aztecs said into the Mayan dialect understood by de Aguilar and he relayed it to Cortes in Spanish. The process was then reversed, Spanish to Mayan and Mayan to Nahuatl.
Bernal Diaz, author of "The Conquest of New Spain" authenticated her pedigree. An eyewitness to the events, he did not describe her physically, but related that after the Conquest he attended a reunion of Doña Marina, her mother and the half- brother who had usurped her rightful place. Diaz marveled at her kindness in forgiving them for the injustice she had suffered. The author referred to her only as Marina or Doña Marina.
The name "La Malinche" came about because Marina was always with Cortes, he was called "Malinche"--which is translated to mean "Marina's Captain." Prescott, in the "Conquest of Mexico," (perhaps the best known book on the subject) confirms that Cortes was always addressed as "Malinche" which he translated as Captain and defined "La Malinche" as "the captain's woman." Both definitions confirm that the Indians saw Cortes and his spokesperson as a single unit. They recognized that what they heard were the words of "Malinche," not "La Malinche. " It is very possible that without her, Cortes would have failed. He himself, in a letter preserved in the Spanish archives, said "After God we owe this conquest of New Spain to Doña Marina. " After the Conquest, Cortes, with a wife in Spain, arranged to have Marina married to a Castilian knight, Don Juan Xamarillo. Soon thereafter she disappeared from history.
She had borne Cortes a son, Don Mahin Cortes. If modern-day Mexicans are a blend of Spanish and Indian blood, Doña Marina's son “Mahin” was the first "Mexican". He rose to high government position and was a "Comendador" of the Order of St. Jago. In 1548, after being accused of conspiring against the Viceroy, he was tortured and executed.
IN MEXICO CITY - There is no museum at 57 Higuera St., not even a plaque.
When foreign tourists ring the doorbell of the stone house, they are shooed away by the owners. Mexicans just walk right by, shunning the place because of its historical associations and popular fears of the ghosts that supposedly stalk any visitors who dare to go inside. But the house, which is one of the most graceful in the colonial neighborhood of Coyoacan, receives a modest mention in tourist guidebooks as "La Malinche's house," named after Hernan Cortes' beautiful and reputedly treacherous Indian translator and mistress.
Not only did La Malinche live in the house almost 500 years ago. This was also the place where Cortes wrote the chronicles of his brutal conquests for King Charles V, and where historians believe he strangled his wife for reasons that are still the stuff of popular rumor and historical speculation. Mexico City has museums that commemorate its modern art, its Indian heritage, stamps, and even the house where Leon Trotsky lived and was assassinated. But the only commemorative to the woman who helped Cortes forge alliances with various Indian nations against the Aztecs is an insult. To be called a malinchista is to be called a lover of foreigners, a traitor.
For Mexico to make this house a museum, would be like the people of Hiroshima creating a monument for the man who dropped the atomic bomb," said Rina Lazo, a prominent Mexican muralist who lives at 57 Higuera Street with her family. "We're not malinchistas, but we want to conserve Mexican history." La Malinche, who took part in the Spanish conquest and gave birth to one of Cortes' children, has become a symbol of a nation that is still not entirely comfortable with either its European or its Indian roots. Some Mexican feminists say she is even at the root of much of the disdain Mexican men display toward Mexican women, expressed in the country's high rates of infidelity and domestic violence.
La Malinche is present in the murals of Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. She has been described and analyzed in the writings of most of Mexico's great authors, from the essays of Carlos Fuentes to the plays of Salvador Novo and Rodolfo Usigli. But even though Mexican and Mexican-American intellectuals have begun to rethink her meaning, La Malinche is for the most part portrayed as the perpetrator of Mexico's original sin and as a cultural metaphor for all that is wrong with Mexico.
For Octavio Paz, La Malinche was "the cruel incarnation of the feminine condition." In his book "The Labyrinth of Solitude," Paz wrote, "The strange permanence of Cortes and La Malinche in the Mexican's imagination and sensibilities reveals that they are something more than historical figures: They are symbols of a secret conflict that we have still not resolved." But while Cortes and La Malinche are still on the minds of Mexicans, they are kept in the closet. When Coyoacan officials constructed a fountain and statue depicting Cortes, La Malinche and their son about 15 years ago, street demonstrations became so fierce that the monument was destroyed.
Visitors who are lucky enough to gain entrance to 57 Higuera Street are treated to an array of riches. Ms. Lazo and her husband, Arturo Garcia Bustos, who is also a prominent painter, use the ample two-story house as their studio. Amid their own work and that of their teachers, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, are Aztec jade jewelry and other artifacts they found in the garden. The house sustained a rich history between the time La Malinche lived there and when Ms. Lazo and Garcia Bustos moved in 35 years ago. It has been restored and rebuilt several times, but the foundation and several walls remain from the original house, and stone rings to tie idle horses still grace the facade.
In colonial times, Indians wove blankets and clothing in the house for their Spanish masters. It was left in ruins in the 17th century. But a group of Catholic monks clandestinely converted the house into a convent in the middle of the 19th century, resisting the anti-clerical policies of President Benito Juarez. Some peasants betrayed the monks, and the house was confiscated and turned into a prison. Jose Vasconcelos, the Mexican philosopher and unsuccessful presidential candidate, bought the house in the '30s and rented it to various people, including Lupe Rivera Marin, Diego Rivera's daughter. She used the house as headquarters when she successfully ran for Congress. "It will take another century before this house could become a museum," Ms. Lazo said. "The gringos and Spaniards will keep knocking on the door, but the Mexicans will only knock when they no longer hold grudges and feel resentments, and that will take time."
Success in war had given the Aztecs more than a fair share of national pride, and the arrogance of Mexican officials and tax-gatherers was notorious. The structure and values of society were designed to foster competition and pride in achievement, and the Aztecs were clearly not lacking in ambition and self esteem, nor apparently in passion, for the severe penalties for adultery and drunkenness-both of which are crimes of excess suggest that these were two evils which could only be kept down by repression.
A well-bred Aztec was, however, expected to exercise selfcontrol and to behave with dignity. Sahagun has left a word-portrait of the perfect nobleman, a person who is serious and modest, who 'wishes no praise', who is 'solicitous of others', chaste and devout, eloquent but discreet in his conversation, diligent, wise, polite, 'a follower in the ways of his parents', and an example to other people. This, of course, is an idealized picture, and the high standard of behavior may have been more often sought after than achieved.
The same emphasis on moderation, responsibility, and selfrestraint is found in the Precepts of the Elders, a class of literature written in a high-flown and wordy style to instruct young people in behavior and manners. Here is one Aztec father talking to his son:
Revere and greet your elders; console the poor and the afflicted with good works and words. . . . Follow not the madmen who honor neither father nor mother; for they are like animals, for they neither take nor hear advice. . . . Do not mock the old, the sick, the maimed, or one who has sinned. Do not insult or abhor them, but abase yourself before God and fear lest the same befall you. . . . Do not set a bad example, or speak indiscreetly, or interrupt the speech of another. If someone does not speak well or coherently, see that you do not the same; if it is not your business to speak, be silent. If you are asked something, reply soberly and without affectation or flattery or prejudice to others, and your speech will be well regarded. . . . Wherever you go, walk with a peaceful air, and do not make wry faces or improper gestures. (Zorita)
There is much more in the same vein, and near the end inevitably comes the sentence which every young man has heard at some time or other: 'Son, if you do not heed your father's advice, you will come to a bad end, and the fault will be yours.'
The Mexicans were addicted to making speeches and giving advice, often at great length, and many of their songs and poems have a philosophical theme which gives further insight into the 8 Pectoral ornament in the shape of a double-headed serpent. Turquoise mosaic on a wooden base
Aztec temperament. One obsession is with the transitory nature of life and the difficulty of finding anything permanent on earth:
It is not true, it is not true that we come on this earth to live. We come only to sleep, only to dream. Our body is a flower. As grass becomes green in the springtime, So our hearts will open and give forth buds and then they wither.
Even the search for philosophical truth ends only in failure and doubt.
How many can truthfully say that truth is or is not there?
Some people found a solution in epicureanism, the enjoyment of life while it lasts, but even their pleasure was tinged with melancholy:
Only in passing are we here on earth. In peace and pleasure let us spend our lives; come let us enjoy ourselves. . . Would that one lived forever; Would that one were not to die!
The same fatalistic acceptance can be seen in man's relationship with the gods, when the love of pageantry and ceremony which affected every part of Aztec life reached its climax in the ritual of worship.
Generalizations about national character are always dangerous and likely to be misleading, but the typical Aztec (who must have been as rare as the typical Englishman) seems to have been a good citizen, rather conservative and tied to tradition, with his competitive and aggressive instincts held in check by good manners and self-control, ceremonious in his dealings with other people, sensitive to beauty and to the symbolism which underlies philosophy and religion, inclined to be pompous and perhaps a bit humorless, honest and hard- working, proud of his position in society, superstitious and fatalistic in his attitude towards life.
Aztec Personal Cleanliness
Andres de Tapia comments (with some astonishment) that Montezuma washed his body twice a day, but this love of personal cleanliness was general among the Aztecs, and everybody bathed frequently in the rivers and lakes. True soap was unknown. but among the substitutes available were the fruit of the soap-tree and the roots of certain plants which could produce a lather.
Besides these cold-water baths, a kind of sauna or steam bath was in use everywhere in the Valley of Mexico. Almost every dwelling had its bath-house, a little hemispherical building shaped rather like an igloo with a low doorway. Against it was constructed a fire-place, and the blaze warmed the adjacent wall of the bath-house until it glowed red-hot. At this stage, the bather crept into the house and threw water onto the hot wall until the interior was filled with steam. To increase the flow of perspiration and to gain full benefit from the treatment, the bather switched himself with twigs or bundles of grass. 'Soap' was used for washing, and the process might be completed with a massage, followed by a period of relaxation, lying stretched out on a mat. Both men and women used the steam baths, not only for ritual purifications and the treatment of certain diseases but as a normal part of everyday hygiene.
The Aztec's Cosmetics
The Aztec skin was naturally brown or bronze-colored, but the fashionable shade for a woman's complexion was yellow. To achieve this effect the cheeks were either rubbed with a yellow earth or anointed with a cream containing axin, a waxy yellowish substance obtained by cooking and crushing the bodies of fat-producing insects. Travelers also used axin ointment as a salve to prevent the lips from cracking in frosty weather, and to protect the skin from the effect of cold.
Sahagun has left a description of the kind of make-up worn by fashion-conscious women, in particular by the courtesans who were the companions of the young warriors:
Their faces were painted with dry, colored powder;
faces were colored with yellow ochre, or with bitumen.
Feet were anointed with an unguent of burned copal
incense and dye. . . . Some cut their hair short, so
that their hair reached their noses. It was cut and
dyed with black mud so did they place importance upon
their heads; it was dyed with indigo, so that their
hair shone. The teeth were stained with cochineal (a red dye);
the hands and neck were painted with designs.
Perfumes, rose water and incense were popular, and a kind of chewing gum (made of chicle – tree gum - mixed with axin and bitumen) was used to sweeten the breath. As always, the appearance and manners of the young people did not meet with the approval of the older generation, and this father's admonition to his daughter has a familiar ring: 'Never make up your face nor paint it; never put red on your mouth to look beautiful. Makeup and paint are things that light women use shamelessly. If you want your husband to love you, dress well, wash yourself and wash your clothes.'
Men painted their faces and bodies on ceremonial occasions, but it is not certain whether the Aztecs followed the example of their Otomi neighbors who covered their arms and chests with tattooed designs. Sahagun reports, however, that the fifth month of the year was the time when incisions were made on the chests of children as a mark of citizenship or tribal identification.
Mirrors were made from pieces of burnished iron pyrites or from obsidian, a kind of black volcanic glass, which was cut and polished into discs up to a foot in diameter. These were provided with wooden frames or with loops of cord so that they could be hung on the wall.
All of the Aztec codices and stele depicting Human sacrifice that we see today - were made after the Aztec had been conquered!!! Even at the Cenotes of sacrifice at Chichen itza, where there are so many stories of people being thrown in as sacrifices to the gods. Modern day dredging has recovered many items of gold and jade as well as pottery – “But” no Human remains. The explanation for this is that the Spanish destroyed all of the original Aztec Books and stele. Which seems pretty strange, when you consider that the Spanish were very keen to study the Aztec. Why then too, allow such a great abundance of it to be re-created after the fact. If it wasn’t right for them to exist before, why was it right afterward?
The likely answer is the “vile hypocrisy” of the Europeans. Remembering that the Spanish monarchy considered itself to be model and devote Christians. It wouldn’t “do” for them to murder and enslave ordinary Humans, so a way would have to be found to de-humanize them. To make them so ferocious and depraved as to justify the atrocities that were to be done to them, (they had already done the same thing to the Caribe Indians with their allegations of cannibalization). It is therefore quite plausible that the Spanish forced or coerced the Aztec into making bogus artifacts depicting atrocities to others, as a way of justifying what was to happen to them.