Nahuatl love poem
Moxiptli tescaco, quetzali xochicuicatl,
Auh otia isiucalli, ixiptli poliui.
Moxiptli nitlamian "Nimitztlazohtla".
→ French poem ←
Aztec & literature
Poem translated into Nahuatl, for a descendant of Tlazolteotl! She goes every morning at dawn, take to the source of the village, this clear water in which she looks at herself!
Nahualt is the language of the Nahua peoples, descendants of the Aztecs and Pipils. This agglutinating and predicative language of Mexico (Uto-Aztecan), is spoken by 1.5 million speakers. This language of the Nahua group is the language of Aztec literature. A word that we used very often come from the nahuatlt ... the word "chocolate". At the time of the Spanish conquest Aztec writing was entirely pictographic. The Spanish introduced the Roman alphabet and soon recorded a large body of Aztec prose and poetry. The full text of prayer to Tlaloc, the god of rain, runs to about 200 lines.
The Nahuas, the most numerous Amerindians in Mexico, are the descendants of the great Toltec and Aztec civilizations. They were also called Mēxihcatl, origin of Mexico and Mexico City, Tenochtitlán being the capital of their empire.
The Aztecs (Mexicas) founded their empire in Mexico in the 15th century. According to tradition, this Nahualt-speaking people originated from Aztlan, a region whose location is uncertain and where they settled in the 2nd century. A thousand years later, they began to descend to southern Mexico and settle in Tula, the former capital of the Toltecs. In the 13th they entered the Valley of Mexico to become the mercenaries of the powerful city states which were installed there. It was around 1325 that they founded Tenochtitlán (Mexico). Allied with two of their neighbors they submit the region, then undertake the conquest of the areas outside the valley. In the 16th century they control an enormous territory with the reign of Moctezuma 1st and Axayacalt as climax. Moctezuma 2 the son of the latter will be killed by Cortes. Cuauhtémoc who will organize the resistance, will be the last emperor, and will be hanged in 1525.
Actually, they are distributed on territories demarcated on both sides by the sierra Madre occidentale and the sierra Madre orientale, more particularly located in Mesa Central. Cultivation on burnings is at the root of their subsistence economy, which, often precarious, forces them to labor in coffee plantations. Weaving and pottery are also practiced. The socio-political organization is based on village unity, hierarchized in classes, and on the existence of a municipal house around which community life is organized.
The Nahualt or classical Aztec, transcribed in Latin characters from the time of the conquest, and partially deciphered in its pictographic form, was the vehicle of a rich and original literature, disappeared because of the massive destruction of manuscripts, by the Spaniards. There is no longer a document dating back to before Cortes. We only have, texts transmitted by the Spanish missionaries (Olmos, Molina, Motolinia, Sahagun), who, in contact with the natives, retranscribed the traditions. Thus, versions of pre-Columbian codex could be realized.
The Aztecs treated all themes, rites, religion, myths, genealogy etc. Poetry (the flowery word), was a fundamental element of the Aztec literary expression, they taught it, with music and dance, which had for them, the virtue of helping to fix the poems in the memory, and only a rigorous memory, could allow to transmit without alterations. Garibay grouped them by genre, god, war etc. Prose, too, was the subject of specific instruction. It was used for the moral education of young people. The historical narrative also had an important place.
I: The Organization
In the beginning, the Aztec society was egalitarian. It was divided into clans (capulli) under the authority of heads of families. This organization will be gradually modified by widening gaps between nobles and ordinary people, and because of the emergence of new groups, merchants, civil servants, and especially artisans who enjoyed privileges. The merchants (pochteca), were in charge of the trade with distant zonesl. Their privileges rested on the fact that they played a role of spies which was very useful to the warlike successes of the Aztecs. Below was the ordinary people (macehualtin), who were subject to the tribute. Still lower were peasants and slaves. The peasants worked on land that did not belong to them. Slaves had some right (own a property, marry someone free).
At the top of the hierarchy was the "tlatoani" who was at the head of the political, religious and warlike power. At the time of Moctezuma II, he was so powerful that addressing him required a complicated ceremony. Just below, a sort of prime minister (cihuacoatl), chosen by the descendants of the first regent, had the power of regency in the absence of tlatoani. With the overlord, were elected 4 advisers who took care of the executive. Just below there were chiefs who owned land and constituted the nobility. The war was part of the Aztec civilization, it was a way to gain honors and enter to the suzerain's war council. The teachings were of two kinds: this of the art of war (telpochcalli), was most often reserved for the children of the people, and that of prayer and arts was reserved for children of noble ancestry.
The religion of the Aztecs was based on a polytheism of every moment, very pregnant. The priests, alone, able to control the invisible forces, had an enormous power, they were also those who had the power to predict. The Aztec gods are Huitzilopochtli (war), Quetzalcoatl (the civilizer), Tlaloc (rain), Tlazolteotl (the goddess of love). For their gods, the Aztecs practiced human sacrifices in a very important way. Wars, in peaceful periods, was only, to make prisoners, bring them back, and sacrifice them
II: Cortes the conquest
April 21, 1519, Cortes, with ten caravels, come from Cuba that the Spaniards have already colonized, arrives on the coast of the present-day, Mexico (future new Spain), he founds Vera Cruz. If he lands with gunpowder, that the natives do not know, he only lands with 518 soldiers, 16 horses and some dogs.
Like the conquistators, who preceded him, and those who will succeed him, it is not the king who sends them. Their expeditions, are individual enterprises. If the first explorator (Christopher Colombus), had the authorization of the kings, that is not the case of the conquistadors. The king of spain who want not let the power in the hands of his vassals, will even send an expedition to the Mexican coast, in pursuit of Cortes
When Cortes arrives, wedged between the King of Spain and the Aztecs, he dismantles his ships, to have only one solution, succeed! He divides his men, into two groups. The first remains on the coast, to wait for the army, that the king sends against him, and with the second, he marchs towards Tenochtitlan.
During this first meeting with the Aztecs, Cortes will be saved by two of his men, and could join the other group, stayed near the coast, and defeat, the Spanish pursuers. When he returns, with his allies to Tenochtitlán, the Aztecs will resist, only 3 months. Cortes, practicing the politics of scorched earth, sets the city on fire, and in ruins. In front of him, he had, millions of men, an empire, a complex, and well structured society. And yet, in two years (1521), the Aztec empire will come under the Spanish rule.
There are many reasons:
(a) The Aztec empire had already lost its splendor, and began to become decadent. This federative empire, of three city states, which lived on the tribute of dominated peoples, knew many dissensions, dissensions which will profit to Cortes. His first indigenous contact, will be with the Tlaxcaltecas, a dominated and rival people, of the Aztecs.
(b) With them, especially because of "the Malinche", one of the slaves, the Indians gave to him, a devoted slave, who will act as a translator, he will learn all the riches, the dissensions, and the structure of the empire. A knowledge that will allow him, associated with Totonacas and Tlaxcaltecas, to collapse like a house of cards, this powerful civilization.
Other important reasons will also help him:
(c) Smallpox, brought from Europe by the Spaniards, a disease hitherto unknown to the Indians, will wreak havoc, more devastating than decimating the natives, these one will see divine signs, negative for them!
(d) Besides, a different armament, and horses, even in very small numbers, which the Aztecs took for dragons, Indians and Europeans do not make war in the same way. The Spaniards want to kill, the Aztecs themselves, want to make prisoners, for future human sacrifices.
(e) The Aztecs live on omens, and their beliefs make them fatalistic. They were waiting for the return of one of their gods, and the Spaniards arrive the same year.