A highly advanced culture, one of the most advanced in the
Western Hemisphere was the precursor of modern day Mexico.
As early as 21000 BC or perhaps even earlier hunters are
thought to have roamed through what is now Mexico. It was
around 8000 BC that squash, the first Mexican crop began to
appear. The Olmecs were the first tribe to appear in Mexico
and it was considered a major Mesoamerican civilization.
While the time is not known exactly, Olmec arrived is
estimated between 1500 and 600 BC. The sixth century AD saw
the flourishing of the Mayans in the Mexican area. Then,
however, Toltecs, a very warlike group of people, traveled
to the Mexico area from the north, arriving in the Mexican
Valley around the eighth century. Talncingo and Tula were
the first cities they founded. Their civilization was
advanced and they built magnificent structures whose ruins
are still visible.
The Chicimeca pushed out the Toltecs during the 12th
century. In the 13th century the Nahuatlans, made up of
seven different tribes, arrived from the north. The Aztecs
were the most advanced and powerful of these seven tribes.
This was evidenced by the construction of Tenochtitlan, an
island fortress city with its own causeway dam and fortress.
The Aztec influence was seen throughout most of Mexico
during the 15th century, helped in this by emperor Itzcoatl.
The Aztecs were a very developed and cultured people,
advanced in art, intellect and agriculture, growing corn and
depending on it extensively. Rich and strong, they build
tremendous Aztec cities and banded together for social,
political and spiritual strength. The explorer de Cordoba
came to Mexico from Europe, finding Mayan civilization
traces in Yucatan in 1517. The Cuban de Grijalva discovered
the Aztecs along Mexico’s east coast and took his tale back
to his homeland. The governor of Cuba promptly sent the soon
to be conqueror Cortes and a large complement of warriors to
By this time 38 Aztec provinces had been established, all
independent, some fiercely so. It was this internal strife
that made the Cortes victory over the Aztecs possible. Nor
did it help the Aztec cause that the Aztec emperor Montezuma
welcomed Cortes, thinking that their soon to be conqueror
was the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, also called the Plumed
Slaves, commoners and nobility were the three distinct
groups of Aztecs. Slaves were indentured servants and often
the children of the poor. They didn’t work as slaves
forever, and, in fact, could buy their freedom. They could
also try to escape to the royal palace. If they did so, they
were free. Most commoners were allowed to buy land and build
homes. The tlalmaitl were only allowed the status of tenant
farmers. Commoners, except for the most lowly of them, were
allowed to be homeowners and landowners. Nobles were those
born to the position and those who earned their way to the
distinction. The latter were warriors and priests for the
Early Aztecs worshipped at the altars of several gods. Their
gods presided over the sun, the moon, the rain, the
calendar, the Aztec writing, and resurrection. Aztecs
produced many writings called codices, which archeologists
have kept intact today. These writings, many with drawings,
were made on animal hide or on paper. The Aztecs developed a
365-day, 18-month calendar. Each month was the same – 20
days each. However, five other days, called hollow days,
were considered days of bad luck. The Aztecs haven’t
disappeared. There are more than one million of their
civilization still around the Mexico City area. They don’t
practice modern day life, but rather subsist as illiterate
farmers. Their religion is partly that of earlier Aztecs but
also part that of present day Roman Catholics.
Jenni Reker is the webmaster of www.mgmexico.com, a place to find mexico links, resources and articles.
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