Time, History, and Belief in Aztec and Colonial Mexico
The history of different people and how they lived in the past is majorly explained through their cultural way of life. People lived in different geographical localities, but due to similar ethic and racial background they shared a common background in terms of cultural, political, social, and religious beliefs. Aztec empire is one of the societies that lived in different geographical localities which included New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, but shared similar culture. The empire was formed by millions of people who migrated and settled in Mexico with most of them living in Tenochtitlan (Pennock, 2011). The Aztec had a culture that was complicated although rich in religious and mythological beliefs. The people culture encompassed arts (carvings on animals and religious images) music, dressing, dance, drinks, sports, food, games, and rituals that could involve human sacrifice and they were transferred from one generation to the other.
The Aztec empire believed that a family was the most important aspect that signified life and new generations. The family was composed of men, women, and children and each member had a specific duty towards the family. Men were responsible for looking for food through hunting and gathering of wild fruits. Women were left to cook food and do the weaving jobs while they took care of children during the day. Children or young boys were trained on how to hunt and gather fruits and foods by their fathers and some went to school. On the other hand, young girls were trained on how to do household chores by their mothers in addition to weaving. A family was started through tradition marriage that was conducted through ceremonies and was between young girls as young as fifteen years and men as young as eighteen years (Pennock, 2011).
Art was one of the ways the Aztec culture recorded information on different beliefs, religion, and war fare. The recordings helped the people to transfer their beliefs and cultiure to other generations so that they would be continuous from one generation to the other. Since in the early Aztec culture few technology on recording and preserving information were available, they recorded their information inform of paintings and writings on the bark of trees. The writings and paintings were then stored in the temple and people could read and use the paintings to learn their history and they warfare encounter (Smith, 2008). The art works was done using various themes such as insects, animals, fish, and plants. Moreover, others reflected religion beliefs and gods that were majorly placed in temples. Hence, art was important in the Aztec culture as it was used to record their activities and events that could be passed from one generation to the other.
Religion was evident in Aztec culture. The Aztec people worshipped different gods and goddess that were categorised according to their responsibilities. Since Aztec people were mainly farmers, they conducted rituals in form of ceremonies every year before planting so that they could ensure that they could get a good crop and harvest. The ceremonies involved human sacrifices that were dedicated to gods, Tezcatlipoca (Hassig, 2013). The human sacrifices were obtained from children or prisoners that were captured during war with the neighbouring societies. They believed that human blood and heart was important so as to strengthened the gods and goddesses and bless them with good harvests in addition to their protection and conquering other societies to get more prisoners for human sacrifices. Moreover, they build large temples that were meant for performing the human sacrifices (Smith, 2008).
The Aztec empire also had a unique dress that was used to identify them with their culture that was part of art. The material of the dressing was mainly a beautiful fabric of bright colours that was intertwined and tailored to different designs. The bright colours and design were unique to Aztec people and helped them to identify with their culture. The dressing colours were also used to identify social class as the quality and the design were unique to social class (Dwyer, Stout, & Stout, 2013). The wealthy class were characterised with the best qualities and designs as the commoner material quality was low.
Dance was performed in line with religious and social activities in the society. In some instances, dancing was performed as a religious ritual that was meant to please gods so that they could give blessings to the people and protect them from evil (Dwyer et al, 2013). Moreover, the dance was also done to colour ceremonies that varied from entertainment to ritual ceremonies. The dances were performed in accompaniment with music. The music was sang and played as a form of rituals or players to gods. Different music had different themes. Some music was purely for entertainment while others were purely dedicated to gods. Moreover music was performed based on seasons. Various instruments such as drums, flutes, and rattles were used to play music as well as chanting as a way to worship gods. Therefore, dancing and music were used by the Aztec to preserve their cultures from one generation to the other.
The culture has various games and sports that were important in their culture. The games provided entertainment to leaders and other people distinguished in the social class. The entertainment was also done during ceremonies in the society. Moreover, the games could also be performed to portray religious meaning. For religious ceremonies, games were performed during human or other sacrifice to appease the gods so that they could accept the sacrifice and do as the people had played.
The Aztec empire had different kinds and unique food that were rich and concentrated with spices. The dishes that were common and popular among the Aztec were tortillas, tacos, and tamales. There were other foods that were gathered by men like seeds of sage plants that were common as cereal, eggs, dogs, turkey, and rabbits (Culture and Arts, 2013). Unlike other cultures, most of Aztec food was made with chilli peppers as the main spice. Delicacies that were common among the Aztec people were green slime. The food was obtained from Lake Texococo and its taste was compared to that of cheese. Most of the time enjoyed water as a form of refreshments and in special occasions or ceremonies beer was the main form of drinks. The Aztecs also enjoyed drinks such as hot sweetened chocolate and sometimes octilli. The latter was common among the noble people and other people of a higher social class.
Aztec people day to day life involved agriculture as a form of socioeconomic practices. Their main type of crop that they cultivated was corn. The people were hard working and dedicated farming to their gods and they were able to have crops in surplus. Few practiced irrigation on the dry lands while the majority ploughed on shallow lakes. Farmers transferred mud and soil from dry land to the shallow lakes thus forming islands, chinampas that they in turn used as land for agriculture (Cohn, 2013). The islands were very fertile and productive, which resulted in food surplus. The surplus food and other crops were sold to the other communities and neighbouring empires through Tlateolco market that united various communities. Although Aztecs lacked monetary system, they used barter trade of exchange of goods and services.
The Aztecs were most of the time involved in wars where they capture prisoners for human sacrifice and slaves for their economic purposes. They used futile weapons to fight other tribes and neighbouring communities (Clendinnen, 2010). Some of the weapons that were common among them were wooden clubs. The clubs were edged with pieces of obsidians that were sharp forming a tool that they commonly referred to as macuahuitl. The weapon was used to demobilize the enemies without killing them so that they could be captured as slaves and prisoners for human sacrifice. Other weapons prevalent among the Aztecs were spears and arrow that could either disable or kill the enemies.
Aztec culture was rich in art works such as carvings of different images. They believed family as unit of life and marriage was between a man and women. In family, men were hunters and gatherers while women cooked food and weaved clothes. The people had different types of foods such as eggs, cereals, meat, and fish. Spicy pepper was common among the community. The people had religious beliefs and worshiped many gods and goddess that were categorised based on events or season. They sacrificed human beings for the gods in order to be protected and their land to be blessed. In addition, they had different games that could be played in times of ceremonies or religious rituals. Dance was common among the people in combination with music. Similarly, dance and music was done as a way of worship or entertainment in ceremonies. The people had a unique dress that identified them with their culture.
Clendinnen, I. (2010). The cost of courage in Aztec society: essays on Mesoamerican society and culture. Cambridge University Press.
Cohn, J. (2013). The Aztecs. New York: Gareth Stevens Pub.
Culture and Arts. (2013). Mexico Country Review, 178-184.
Dwyer, H., Stout, M., & Stout, M. (2013). Aztec history and culture. New York, NY: Gareth Stevens Pub.
Hassig, R. (2013). Time, History, and Belief in Aztec and Colonial Mexico. University of Texas Press.
Pennock, C. (2011). ‘A Remarkably Patterned Life’: Domestic and Public in the Aztec Household City. Gender & History, 23(3), 528-546.
Smith, M. E. (2008). The Aztec Empire. The Aztec World. Ed. Brumfiel, E., M. and Gary M. F. New York: Abrams, 2008. 121-136.