Unless you have been living under a rock all these years, I’m fairly confident in saying that at some point in life, you heard about the Aztecs.
While the precise origins of the Aztec people remain foggy, they are believed to have begun as a northern tribe of hunter-gatherers whose name came from that of their homeland, Aztlan (or “White Land”). The Aztecs went by the name Tenochca (from which the name for their capital city, Tenochtitlan, was derived) or the Mexica (the origin of the name of the city that would replace Tenochtitlan, as well as the name from which Mexico was derived).
The language of the Aztecs was Nahuatl (Nahua), part of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family that, at the time of the early explorations of America by Europeans, was influencing languages as far north as the Yellowstone River and as far south as Panama. Once the Aztecs achieved political ascendancy, Nahuatl became the lingua franca of an area almost as large as present-day Mexico.
By far, the thing that Aztecs are most famously known for is their ritual of human sacrifice. There would be a pyramid-like temple on whose high platform thousands of people died in mass sacrifices. The deities who demanded such slaughter included Quetzalcoatl, the "feathered serpent", god of procreation, desire and the winds; Tezcatlipoca or "smoking mirror", the patron of rulers, warriors and magicians; and Tlaloc, god of rain. A complicated calendar and an elaborate festive cycle unified all the different gods and myths in one highly ornate system of intense beliefs.
The Aztecs did have a lighter side to them as well. For example, they were very artistic people. Aztecs were into pottery and sculpting and created many different artistic drawings as well. They designed art for their warriors that were then often applied as tattoo’s to honor them for their accomplishments; they also had a love for poetry. The Aztecs also played team sports, specifically a game very popular among them called Ullamaliztli. The game utilized a rubber ball, which was a fairly advanced concept for their time and was played on a court called a Tlachtli. The object of the game was to get the ball through a small stone ring; however, it was an extremely difficult game to play. The ball was not supposed to hit the ground, and players could only touch it with their head, elbows, knees and hips. You can learn more about this fascinating game here: http://www.aztec-history.com/aztec-ball-game.html
The end of the Aztec Civilization took place with the European invasion. The first European to visit Mexican territory was Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, who arrived in Yucatan from Cuba with three ships and about 100 men in early 1517. Cordobars reports on his return to Cuba prompted the Spanish governor there, Diego Velasquez, to send a larger force back to Mexico under the command of Hernan Cortes. In March 1519, Cortes landed at the town of Tabasco, where he learned from the natives of the great Aztec civilization, then ruled by Moctezuma (or Montezuma) II. Defying the authority of Velasquez, Cortes founded the city of Veracruz on the southeastern Mexican coast, where he trained his army into a disciplined fighting force. Cortes and some 400 soldiers then marched into Mexico, aided by a native woman known as Malinche, who served as a translator. Thanks to instability within the Aztec empire, Cortes was able to form alliances with other native peoples, notably the Tlascalans, who were then at war with Montezuma.
In November 1519, Cortes and his men arrived in Tenochtitlan, where Montezuma and his people greeted them as honored guests according to Aztec custom (partially due to Cortes’ physical resemblance to the light-skinned Quetzalcoatl, whose return was prophesied in Aztec legend). Though the Aztecs had superior numbers, their weapons were inferior, and Cortes was able to immediately take Montezuma and his entourage of lords hostage, gaining control of Tenochtitla. The Spaniards then murdered thousands of Aztec nobles during a ritual dance ceremony, and Montezuma died under uncertain circumstances while in custody. Cuauhtemoc, his young nephew, took over as emperor, and the Aztecs drove the Spaniards from the city. With the help of the Aztecs’ native rivals, Cortes mounted an offensive against Tenochtitlan, finally defeating Cuauhtemoc’s resistance on August 13, 1521. In all, some 240,000 people were believed to have died in the city’s conquest, which effectively ended the Aztec civilization. After his victory, Cortes razed Tenochtitla and built Mexico City on its ruins; it quickly became the premier European center in the New World.
Mexico is definitely a place full of wonders and we highly recommend going there and checking it out. We have quite a few cool experiences for Mexico on MYrago that you should definitely check out here.
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