Ethno-Profile Aztex

Ethno-Profile Aztex

In this ethno profile we will be taking a look at the Aztec people of Central America. I will be taking a look at their physical environment and the size of their great empire. We also focus on their beliefs of their origin, their adopted homeland, a look at a birth to school to marriage to death; and the ritual that go along with each. I explain their political organization and their religion and technology and skills feats these people have accomplished. At the end I will be contrast between our way of living and theirs and what caused these great peoples to their demise.

The Capitol City and the Origins of the Aztec

The Aztec lived in Central America, to be more specific the Valley of Mexico. Their capitol Tenochtitlan at the height of their civilization in 1519 A.D. had a population of 200,000 people, which was the largest city in the world at that time. Today the city is called Mexico City. Now that I have identified their capitol city let me tell you about the founders and the way they constructed it.

The Aztec believed to be born from the seven caves that were located somewhere farther north. When to Aztec left their caves and began a 200year odyssey in search of a promise land. Huitzilopochtli, the sun god to them was an idol that they carried around and this idol was supposed to be from the caves as well. The Aztec believed that their idol god communicated with them through the median of the priest. When the idol god talked the Aztec obeyed. On the search for their promised land the idol told them to look for an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in it grip. That would be the spot of their homeland, but it so happened that it was on a small island in Lake Texcoco. Now the way they made the island big enough to support 200,000 people was really an ingenious method. They would first pound in stakes and then use reeds to weak the walls together and then they would haul in dirt and rocks. To move all of the materials they needed they would use canoes. This seems to work out pretty well because the city was in a grid type layout of cannels. This enabled them for irrigation and fishing and waterfowl. In the center of the city was their main temple and there was two schools and they were located on either side of the temple and directly across fro the temple was the kings palace.

The Aztec had a hierarchical society, where the king was considered as a living god. Under the king, the nobles that were ones the held government positions such as warriors of rank and priests and judges and administrative positions. They were of better education and higher family morals as well. The nobles were also exempt from taxes because of their public service to the empire. Although; some commoners could hold these positions only by proving themselves worthy in some way, most likely in battle. Commoners on the other hand had to pay taxes, even though they were able to decide their own means of production. Some examples of means of production are farming, artists, merchants, or paid labor. Slaves were the most inferior class, but even then slaves had rights. There rights included a right to family, property, the recovery of their freedom and the right not to be transferred to another master without their permission.

The Aztec was a very militaristic people always trying to expand their territory. Through expansion was their main source of income. Conquered people had to pay tribute to them perioadiclly. Tributes ranged from maize, chilies and caco beans to clothing and warrior attire, polished jadeite beads and shimmering tropical feathers. (#1 p.414) Merchants taking long journeys brought raw materials and manufactured good back from far away cities and usually served as spies or ambassadors for the government and usually had many wives. There was an abundance of service you could receive at the marketplace.

The Aztec people were a well-mannered, people that had respect for their elder, strong religious beliefs and were obedient and very productive. They were this way because of their parents. Devotion to the children the Aztec was. A newborn baby was a very special occasion. During delivery the midwife makes speeches of congratulations that honor both mother and child. These speeches continue all the way through ritual first cleansing and after that a formal baptism is performed. During the baptism the midwife would place the child on a mat and place proper items next to the baby depending the child sex and the profession of the family. Then would proceed to circle around the child counterclockwise giving blessing and explaining to the child what lies ahead in it life.

Children by the ages of three and four would already be given house chores and was being taught more and more on daily life. By early as seven to fourteen children started to go to school. There were two types of school the Aztec children attended to. The telpochclli the school of the commoners and the clamecac was the school for the nobility children. In the telpochlli school the main subjects were basic moral, religious training, history, ritual dancing and singing and mathematics and public speaking. The boys also received military training and the girls learned about the religious cult they would part take in later in life. The clamecac school was much more strict like a military school if you will. They were much more intense with their teachings. Calendrical calculation and precise timing of certain festivals we taught along with a large range of rituals. Military and religious and public speaking training were greatly intensified.

Marriage was the end of schooling to the Aztec, when the parents decided it was time for marriage they have a meal with the schoolmasters to tell them that the child was done with school. The next night a council of relatives decides on the young women that would best be suited for the young man. Then the council chooses it matchmakers and they go to the parents of the young women and ask for her hand in marriage. The matchmakers will go over to the bride’s house for four nights in a row and on the fourth night the parents of the brides decides.

The ceremony of the wedding takes place at the groom’s home. The bride is prepared in a ceremonial outfit and carried from her house to the groom’s house. Then both are seated on a mat and an exchange of gifts of clothing occurs. Then the matchmakers tie the groom’s cape to the bride’s dress to show unionity. Then the groom’s mother feeds both the bride and groom four mouthfuls of tomales in a special sauce. After that the new couple retire to the bedchambers and four days of feasting is followed.

The Aztec believed they were the keepers of cosmos. It was believed that the sun was made of blood and the only was to keep the sun strong enough to fight it way across the morning sky to drive off the darkness was human sacrifice. Aztec religion was a polytheistic. Their gods ruled the heavens, the rain and fertility, and warfare. The Great Temple in the capitol city was home to two gods Huitzilopochtli the sun god and Tlaloc the rain god. In these temples there was many rituals. Singing and dancing and feasting and burning of incense and rubber and human sacrifices were all taking place in this temple. The Aztec believed the there was thirteen heavenly layer and nine underworld layers. Your status and your behavior were believed to determine what level you would go to in death. To the Aztec at that time the world was destroyed; four time already once by ravenous jaguars, then by hurricanes, then by fiery rain, and once by a great flood. The next destruction was to be by earthquakes. The stall this from happening human sacrifices had to be made. The human sacrifices were often done by opening up the chest of the victim and removing the heart. Most sacrifices were captives of war and in special case honored people were slain. The Aztec also took part in cannibalism by cutting of the limbs of the victims of battle and eating them in a stew. This was believed to transfer the essence of the fallen to flow into the person that is eating the stew. In some case they even skinned victims and wore their skin to please the rain god Tlaloc. Tlaloc was also known for receiving children sacrifices but it was better if the child cried before the sacrifice to help promote rain. Every fifty-two years at mid-night a special sacrifice was needed to delay the destruction of the world. In this case the heart was removed then the priest had to start a fire in the chest cavity, if he failed the ended was sure to come. Death to the Aztec was most honorable in sacrifice and in battle and was thought to be the greatest journey anyone will take.

Cultural Contact and The Fall of the Empire

In the year 1519A.D. Motecuhzoma a proven leader in battle and off received reports of big ships much larger then any Indian sea going ship. Hernan Cortes was the leader of the Spanish ships. When he landed he was met with violent Indians belonging to other groups other than the Aztecs. Thanks to better weapons and armor and better battle techniques the Spanish we able to fend off attack after attack. As a sign of Aztec dominance Motecuhzoma sent ambassadors bearing gifts of gold and silver along with food and scared ritual clothing. All these gifts did was intensify the hunger Cortes had for gold and other treasures. At that time Cortes decided to march to Tencochitlan. The way there Cortes again and again won in battle and gained allies from oppressed Indians by the Aztec. To his surprise Motecuhzoma greeted Cortes with open arms. He housed and fed the Spanish for two week until Cortes struck by taking the Aztecs leader captive. He used Motecuhzoma to keep the city at bay and proceeded to plunder the treasury. After days of unrest the Aztec finally turned on their leader because he gave in to the demands of the Spanish instead of dying a warriors death. Trying to settle the crowd in Cortes sent Metecuhzoma to clam the crowd. The crowd responded violently by throwing stones and arrows t their ex-leader. A stone hit Metecuhzoma, and the Spanish reported that he died from his injuries, but the Indians report that he died from strangulation. Cortes then escapes the city to go get more Spanish reinforcements and cam back and captured the Great Temple and destroyed the Idols and plundered anything they could and by using the cover of night tried to escape. He suffered many loses in his attempt to escape and many of his men drowned because of the weight of the things they plundered. This was the fall of Aztecs dominated power in the area.

What really finished of the Indians after Cortes had left was a deadly disease, small pox. Small pox plagued the Indians horribly and caused more death than any other things that took place. Soon after missionaries came to convert the Indians to Christianity.

One thing that really differs us from them is the religion. Our culture finds it disgusting and morally wrong to have human sacrifices. To them though human sacrifice was essential to their religion and in their view to keep the world in balance. We looked at these people and decided we had to change them to Christianity because it was our duty. The value of gold to us was absurd to them though. The Indians could not understand why we wanted that mineral so badly.

In conclusion I really hope you enjoyed the paper and information I provided hear and I hope I am not the only one that really learned form it.


Bibliography Page

1. Berdanin. “Aztec.” Collier Encyclopedia. 1997.

2.Austin. “Aztec.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures. 2001.

3. Rodrigo. “Aztec.” Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1995.

4.Townsend, Richard F. The Aztecs. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992.