The Aztec Nation


A distant sound is heard. It sounds like a deep drum being hit with a heavy instrument. You hear it again and strain your eyes in the direction of the sound. All around you is dense jungle. Snakes slither between your legs. You hear the sound once again. In front of you is a dense stand of ferns. You part them and look down into a wide open valley. The valley gets so wide and it is so green that it takes your breath away. But that is not what you are looking at. You are staring at a huge city with glittering buildings shining in the spring sunlight. Smoke rises up from some of the many houses. You can see and hear children playing in the wide open fields in front of the shining buildings. Lamas and chickens are being bought and sold. You see bags of gold jewelry being bought and sold. Beyond the market place you can watch a religious ceremony. You hear the scream of a person being sacrificed to one of the gods. Beyond the city there are roads made of stone and canals full of pedestrians and canos. Who are these people and what are they doing here you wonder?

The above paragraph describes what an early explorer in Mexico might have seen between 1400 and 1500 AD. The Aztec nation is one of the largest and most advanced Indian nations to ever exist on earth. Just about every part of the Aztec life was advance to such a state that at that time of the world the people were living better than many European nations. The Aztec nation is unique in its history, economy, environment, and way of life then any other nation at that time.

Perhaps three to four thousand years ago, small bands of hunting-gathering peoples made their way across the land bridge that was the frozen Bering Strait, migrated southward through what is now Alaska, Canada, the United States, Central America, South America, and Mexico, settling along the way. One such hunting- gathering group settled in the Central Valley of what is now Mexico (Nicholson 1985). There is a long history of civilizations in the Central Valley of Mexico; as early as several centuries before Christ agricultural tribes had already settled, and by the birth of Christ had established as their great religious center Teotihuac?n. The history of the Central Valley after circa the tenth century A.D. is one of tribal conflict and superiority.

About the time of the fall of this agricultural civilization, which flourished from approximately the second to the tenth centuries A.D., a new tribe, who we know as the Toltecs, settled at Tula, Hidalgo. They belonged to a larger group known as the Nahua, or Nahuatl- speaking, and seem to have entered the Central Valley from the north or northwest. The Toltec civilization gradually replaced the older, agricultural civilization, as Toltec influence was felt as far as the Yucat?n Peninsula and other areas occupied by the Mayan peoples. Yet by the eleventh century A.D., another tribe, the Chichimecs, had already begun to eclipse the Toltecs as the dominant group of the Central Valley. By approximately the thirteenth century, the Chichimecs had replaced the Toltecs (Wolf 1998).

About this time, another Nahua tribe known as the Aztecs began their migration, in c. 1168. They left their mythical mysterious homeland called Aztl?n, place of the herons, or Chicomoztoc, place of the seven caves, and migrated southwards through Michoac?n (Le?n-Portilla 1992). The Aztecs, or "Crane People," arrived in the Central Valley and obtained permission to settle at Chapultepec in c. 1248 (Caso 1958). The tradition of tribal conflict in the Central Valley was continued; however, it seems that the Aztecs, at first, were practically enslaved by the other Nahua tribes inhabiting the Central Valley. The Aztec culture would not be subjugated, however, and continued in its struggle for power. By the fourteenth century the Aztecs had founded two settlements on islands in lakes: Tlaltetalco and Tenochtitl?n. The traditional founding date of Tenochtitl?n is 1325; the quest for the sacred site on which to found Tenochtitl?n is relayed to us by an Aztec myth,

...[its] beginning is found in ancient times, when a humble tribe was banished-- by the original Aztecs (Castillo 1908)-- from a mysterious homeland it called Aztl?n(place of the herons) or Chicomoztoc(place of the seven caves). During the long exile the Mexicas wandered