Present day Mexico was not always Spanish speaking, nor was it even a Spanish country originally. It belonged to the Olmecs, which broke down into different generations and names. The one culture that is more predominate in Mexico is the Aztecs, stemming from the father culture Nahuas. After Christopher Columbus sailed the big ocean blue and found other ‘Americas’, the Spaniards made quest to take over the South.
In the end, Hernan Cortes took over and became the governor of New Spain. The nature of the Spaniards coming into contact with the Nahuas and the Aztecs was that they wanted to convert natives to Christianity, find gold and riches, and expand and create their own legacy.
The Aztecs were Mesoamericans who were ancestors of the Teotihuacan and Mayas. The Aztecs jumped started the ideas of political matters and economics (Smith). The Aztecs were known to have special religious rituals and deep beliefs in mythology (Aztec Civilization). Human sacrifices were very predominate in the Aztecs culture (Document D: Aztec Codex). There was an array of offerings the Aztecs would sacrifice to the gods.
The Aztecs would have a ceremonious parade consisting of song, dance, and other festivities that paved the way for the sacrificial rituals (Smith). Dogs were specifically bred for the sacrifices (Aztec Civilization). The people that were offered in the sacrifice were those of the enemy side. They would be marched to the top of the pyramid, their bodies covered in blue chalk, symbolizing the color of sacrifice. They were placed on the altar having a ceremonial priest stab them in the chest and rip out their heart.
The priest would hold the person’s heart to the sun offering it to the gods. Following this, their bodies would be thrown down the stairs of the pyramid and disposed of later (Aztec Civilization). The Aztecs were very visual people and in place of writing out depictions, the Aztecs would use art as a form of communication. They would use animal skins and different types of papers to portray stories and traditions. They had a very organized system for keeping records and accounts from previous rulers.
Exercising the use of the native calendar, written accounts of important documentation and events were all safely recorded. One of the most important documentations was the direct accounts of the interactions that took place between the Spanish conqueror, Hernan Cortés (Smith). Their military was comprised of a strong military structure with different rankings they could earn.
The Nahuas were the founding culture that the Aztecs derived from. Nahuas wanted to break away from the Uto-Aztecan culture, resulting in them migrating to present day Mexico City (Schwaller). They created their own community with their own language which was spoken among themselves with stories and ideas. They also created an alliance between three city states: Texcoco, Tlaxcalas, and the Tenochtitlans (Schwaller).
The Nahuas were enchanting with their art work and architecture, leaving some of the Spanish conquerors in awe of not just their work but their religion, social and military organization (Schwaller). They used art and culture to express the Nahuatal renaissance, and built a stone building in Great Plaza of City in Mexico. They possessed sculpture art, and pictograph manuscripts called codices. They had an exact science of time hence their two calendars, complex religion, sever laws, organized commerce, educational system, herbal medicine, and a warrior class (Schwaller).
The Nahuas had a very complex view of religion. They believed in gods and goddesses like the ancient Greeks, but they were also very philosophical. They were aware of problems that questioned the attempt to understand established values in a new world, while trying to find a foundation for man and the universe. They had four historical Suns- earth, fire, wind and water that each destroyed mankind (Portilla).
The fifth Sun is the most current one that the elders referred to, claiming that earthquakes and famine will result in the vanishing of mankind forever (Portilla). The Nahuas also believed in the afterlife when you die. Your yolotl soul is your person’s life force; it travels to an underworld place for the dead called mictlan, where your yolotl soul eventually dissipates. Your tonali soul is your personality that dies with you at birth (Nahua Peoples).
Most of the time, the Nahuas had tlamatiquetl which translates to “person of knowledge”, knowing all about nature firsthand. These people were referred to as “shamas”, and they can be male or female who start out as an apprenticeship under a master before they can practice on their own. They used herbal medicine to treat disease, bone setting through massages, and attendance by midwives at births, all done by shamas (Nahua Peoples).
Women took pride in the clothes that they made for themselves and their families. They created beautiful, colorful embroidery in their blouses. Men’s headdresses were made from mirrors, folded paper and ribbon. They were used as part of their costumes for dance during important ritual occasions. Some men also played a musical instrument and engaged in story telling (Nahua Peoples).
The conquest of the Aztec Empire was led by a Spanish conquistador by the name of Hernan Cortes. The purpose of the Spanish interest in the New World was to acquire new land, spread Christianity and to gain gold and wealth (Szalay). Cortes was interested to be a part of the excitement of Spanish explorers before him like Christopher Columbus, to gain notoriety (Szalay).
The interaction between the Aztecs and Spaniards were anything but friendly. All that was left of the Nahuas were their language and alphabet. In 1519, Cortes led his Spanish military to the Mexican coast at Yucatán, only to be in involved in extensive combat for 2 years. In 1521, the Spanish defeated and conquered the Aztecs. Cortes’ impression of the natives was that they were pagans that worshiped gods and performed ritual human sacrifices (Szalay). The Aztecs tried to rebel against the Spanish but were unable to succeed. Cortes as a devote Catholic, removed all false idols and replaced them with crosses and statues of Mary. After the surrender of the Aztecs, they gave the Spanish food and supplies (Szalay).
The Spanish influence brought about change, not always for the best. The outbreak of small pox among the Aztecs brought about death to many which was contracted from the Spanish (Document I: Florentine Codex). The Aztecs immune system was unable to fight the disease. The Aztecs knowing that they could not conquer the Spanish because of their powerful weapons, taught the Spanish their fighting style and joined forces (Szalay). With Cortes and the Spanish nature and style, it built Mexico City into the city of today. The reminisce of the Cortes and Spanish influence as well as the Aztecs is still present today.
Without Cortés invading the Aztecs and Nahuas, we would not have present day Mexico. The Nahuas died off, only leaving their language and alphabet behind. They seemed to have a very laid back culture, caring more about their philosophical beings and nature, than killing others and taking over. The Aztecs were malicious, performing human sacrifices without batting an eye. They ended up being over thrown by Hernan Cortés, a European Spaniard with the drive for fame and riches. In the end, he succeeded to establish today’s Mexico City with a rich culture brought from the past.