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The Aztec-Náhuat people are considered the most direct descendents of the ancient Aztecs. Although many indigenous cultures can claim Aztec roots, only the Náhuat people continue to use the language most associated with that of the Aztecs. The history of the Náhuat people begins as the history of the Aztecs.
After the Maya, after the Toltecs, came the Aztec. The Aztecs emerged in the Valley of Mexico around the 14th century. After having wandered as outcasts and mercenaries through the territories in the southwestern corner of the Valley, the Aztecs, the last of the seven tribes to enter the Valley, finally found a home on two islands in the middle of Lake Texcoco. There, in 1325, they built the city of Tenochtitlan. They had been guided to this spot by their deity, Huitzilopochtli, who had told them to settle where they should find an eagle standing on a nopal and devouring a serpent.
Aztec legends tell of seven Náhuat tribes who pillaged and plundered a divided Mexico after the Mayan civilization had all but faded, dispossessing and enslaving the previous inhabitants. These Náhuat tribes were known as the Chichimecas, a word originally meaning barbarians. The Valley soon became crowded, and the Náhuat waged many years of petty tribal warfare against each other. One tribe, called the Acolhuas of Texcoco, eventually emerged above all the rest. The tribe's chieftains ruled over the Valley, building palaces and trying to preserve peace among the Náhuat tribes. Yet early in the 15th century, the Acolhuas were, in turn, conquered by the Tepanec, a rival Náhuat tribe. This reign was so tyrannous, however, that the other Náhuat tribes were forced to combine their strengths to defeat the Tepanec.
After the war between the Acolhuas and the Tepanec, the Aztec gained their independence and established a new Náhuat culture. They then swept in and conquered the other tribes of the Valley, asserting their authority through their considerable military ability and strength. The tribe began to expand its domain in every direction, making sacrificial victims of the peoples they conquered. By the end of the 15th century, the Aztec-Náhuat city of Tenochtitlan had become very rich and had grown to a population of around 100,000.
Homes in the Aztec-Náhuat city of Tenochtitlan were made of sun-dried bricks. People slept on woven mats. There were not many chairs, tables, or desks. Hearths in the center of a home symbolized the fire god. The main staples of the Aztec Náhuat diet at this time consisted of beans, rice, maize-cakes, pimentos, and tomatoes. Rarely was there meat or poultry. Water was usually the only drink. Nobility ate well and often most of the food prepared was exquisite. All sorts of meats and vegetables were eaten. Maize was revered as the giver of life.
The Aztec-Náhuat also used sage and alcohol for religious ceremonies. The Aztec-Náhuat laws of alcohol were that those whose active lives were basically over were allowed to drink, however young and middle aged men were impaired by strict social barriers against drinking.
The Aztec-Náhuat were great admirers of flowers. They had gardens surrounding the house for aesthetic purposes. Men wore loin cloths, sandals and cloaks. Women were fashion conscious and staining their teeth red or black was popular. Tattoos were used to improve the look of the lower classes. It was also desirable to have yellow skin, so women used the resin of the axin tree to change their color.
The Aztec-Náhuat culture is one of the world's oldest and largest peoples. The Aztec-Náhuat have lived in the middle of Mexico for hundreds of years and had it not been for the tyranny of Spanish colonization and enslavement, the Aztec-Náhuat would still be a large culture. As it remains, the Aztec-Náhuat people of today are very proud of their deep and ancient cultural ties.
To browse KWABLA's catalogue of goods or listing of artisans from the Aztec-Náhuat indigenous culture of Mexico, click on the icons below.