Colonial Mexico

THE AZTECS

Mexico is named for the Aztec god of war. The Aztecs were an aggressive, imperialist people, who had come from somewhere in the north to conquer Mexico about two hundred years before the Spanish came and conquered them.

As the Aztecs conquered territory they preferred to take live prisoners for ceremonial human sacrifices to their bloodthirsty sun god Huitzilopochtli, symbolized by the hummingbird.

The Aztecs ruled over perhaps five million Amerindians. Their rule was punctuated by civil disorder and rebellion from the people they had conquered.

The Aztecs were a primitive people in that they had not yet entered the Iron Age, nor discovered the wheel, nor created a written language; which means they were well over two thousand years behind the Europeans in what Darwin would call evolution.

AZTEC CITY OF TENOCHTITLAN
AZTEC CITY OF TENOCHTITLAN

MEXICO

Hernando Cortes founded the first Spanish city in Mexico, Veracruz, the "City of the True Cross," in 1519 on Good Friday.  The next year, he marched 200 miles through difficult mountain passes with 600 men to present day Mexico City.  Cortes was accompanied by tribes of Amerindians that hated the Aztecs who had oppressed them. 

Hernando Cortes subjugated the Aztecs in what has to be one of the most remarkable feats in human history.  Cortes told the Aztecs: "We Spaniards have a disease of the heart that only gold can cure."  The emperor of the Aztecs, Montezuma, was stoned to death by his own people. The former subjects of the Aztecs simply became subjects of the Spanish. 

In 1521, the Spaniards tore down what Cortes described as the most beautiful city in the world, the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan.  Cortes set about to build a great new city on the same spot, and named it Mexico.  Within twenty years, the Spanish had established an empire larger than that of ancient Rome.

HERNANDO CORTEZ
HERNANDO CORTEZ
MAYAN TEMPLE AT CHICHEN ITZA
MAYAN TEMPLE AT CHICHEN ITZA

CONQUISTADORS

The Spaniards surely believed they were bringing salvation to the lost pagans of Mexico. God must be on their side since He had so blessed their endeavors in the New World. It is amazing that a small band of men could have conquered such an enormous area, filled as it was with millions of Amerindians.

When the Spaniards would encounter a new group of Indians, they would read the Requerimiento to them. This was a statement that recited Christian history from creation to the present. It called on the Indians to accept the authority of the Spanish Crown. Failure to do so would result in subjugation, loss of property, and death, which the statement said would be "your own fault," not that of the Conquistadors, since proper warning had been given.

While the Amerindians used dugout canoes, the Spanish had circumnavigated the globe in heavily armed, seaworthy vessels. The Spaniards frightened the Indians to death with their steel swords, firearms, explosives, and armor. Gunpowder brought the little girl out in the bravest Indian warrior.

Another great advantage was the horses the Spanish introduced to the New World. Not only did they give the Spaniards a decided edge in speed on the battlefield, the Amerindians were terrified of them. Even more feared were the Greyhound dogs the Spaniards brought to Mexico. They were incredibly fast and would tear the limbs off an Indian who didn't surrender peacefully.

I GOT YOUR NOBLE SAVAGE
I GOT YOUR NOBLE SAVAGE

BLACK LEGEND & NOBLE SAVAGE

The Black Legend refers to anti-Spanish propaganda that was spread in the early modern period by European rivals of Spain. In particular, its purpose was to demonize the conquistadors by grossly exaggerating their misdeeds. The Black Legend spread the idea that the Spanish slaughtered millions of Amerindians—which is not true.

The catastrophic decline in Indian populations—estimated at up to 90%—was not from mass genocide, but from European carried diseases for which the Indians had no immunity—especially the smallpox virus. The effects of the Black Legend color our perception of the Spanish conquest to this day.

The other great and misleading myth is that of the Noble Savage, which is used to inculcate in modern minds an image of Amerindians as a peaceful, loving people living in utter harmony with nature and each other. The truth is far different. The Aztecs ruled over an immense number of tribes, with which they were in constant conflict. Many of the Amerindians loved and revered Cortes, whom they saw as liberating them from the oppression of their former Aztec rulers.

SILVER MINE IN MEXICO
SILVER MINE IN MEXICO
TAXCO MEXICO
TAXCO MEXICO

THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO

It took the Spanish until 1575 to conquer the west and northwest parts of Mexico. They were in search of precious metals.  They came to serve God and serve the king, but also to get rich. 

Silver was found at Taxco in 1534 and Zacatecas in 1546.  Guadalajara was founded in 1549.  In the 16th century, 35 million pesos worth of silver was shipped from Mexico to Spain, making Spain the wealthiest nation in Europe.

As the conquistadors would establish control in each new area, land and booty were divided up according to the contributions to the conquest by each member of the company.  Foot soldiers could count on land grants of 100 acres, as compared to 500 acres for horsemen.  Some conquistadors chose to return to Spain with their new wealth. 

The elite among them would receive encomiendas from the Spanish Crown.  Encomienda, which means to entrust, granted a person control over the Amerindians in a specific area, for which this person had the responsibility to protect, teach the Spanish language, and instruct in the Catholic faith. 

The Spanish conquest of Mexico was a combined effort of the Spanish Crown and adventurous individuals.  The Crown and the Catholic Church became the twin sources of authority in New Spain—originally defined as all land north of Panama.  

STATUE OF CONQUISTADOR DON JUAN DE ONATE
STATUE OF CONQUISTADOR DON JUAN DE ONATE
MARKET IN COLONIAL MEXICO
MARKET IN COLONIAL MEXICO
ANTONIO DE MENDOZA
ANTONIO DE MENDOZA

NEW SPAIN

The chief ruler of New Spain was the Viceroy of Mexico City, whose job it was to execute decrees from the Spanish Crown, administer justice, supervise finances, and safeguard the spiritual and material welfare of the native population. The Crown received 20 percent of all precious metals found in New Spain. 

The Spaniards established their towns inland primarily, because the coastal areas were rife with disease, such as malaria.  At the center of a new town was a rectangular area, or plaza, around which would be the church, the residence of the governor, the administrative office, and the prison.  This nucleus served to transmit forms of civil order.

Only Spaniards would live in the town; Amerindians remained in their own villages.  The closer to the town center you lived the more prominent a citizen you were.  Eventually, natives moved to the outskirts of towns in what became known as barrios. 

The Viceroys were sent from Spain, and history shows they were upright and conscientious.  Below them, lower government officials were prone to corruption, starting a pattern that carries on today in Mexico and Latin America.  The lower officials were poorly paid, and thus felt obliged to use their small authorities to supplement their incomes with bribes. 

The first Viceroy of New Spain was appointed in 1535.  He was Antonio de Mendoza, a member of one of Spain's foremost families and a trusted diplomat for the King of Spain, Charles V.  Mendoza is widely credited with bringing law and order to Mexico during his sixteen years as Viceroy of New Spain.

Queen Isabella expressly forbade the enslavement of the Indians. She declared them free and equal subjects of Spain.  The Crown and the Viceroys were committed to protect Amerindians from the Spanish settlers, and passed copious legislation to that effect.  The natives were viewed as innocents who required special care and protection until they could be civilized. 

SPANISH MISSIONARIES IN MEXICO
SPANISH MISSIONARIES IN MEXICO
SPANISH MISSION
SPANISH MISSION
JUAN DE ZUMARRAGA
JUAN DE ZUMARRAGA
THE VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE
THE VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE

SPANISH MISSIONARIES

The Spanish people saw Mexico as a land God had revealed to them so they would spread the Gospel there. Twelve Franciscan friars landed at Veracruz in 1524, with hopes that they could evangelize the simple souls of the childlike Amerindians; and recreate the purity and simplicity of the Apostolic Church. Twelve Dominicans came in 1526, the Augustinians in 1533, and the Jesuits in 1568.

The missionaries faced the daunting task of preaching Christ to millions of people speaking countless unknown languages. The Franciscans concentrated on northwest Mexico; Augustinians the northeast; Dominicans the south; and the Jesuits central Mexico. The missionaries saw the native religions as "tools of Satan," what with their macabre sacrifices of multitudes of human beings and all. They set out to destroy the idols, temples, and codices of these pagan beliefs; to build churches; and to teach and baptize into the Christian faith.

The missionaries were very brave men indeed. They ventured into remote areas, without weapons or protection, and often suffered martyrdom for their efforts.

Juan de Zumarraga became the first bishop of Mexico in 1527. He founded a college for Amerindians, at which they were taught Latin, philosophy, rhetoric, and logic. Zumarraga also translated the Bible into several native languages.

The missionaries did more than evangelize. They taught Indians new agricultural methods, and how to use tools to their benefit. They built aqueducts and irrigation systems for the Indians.

The Catholic religion as practiced in Mexico was different from that in Europe. In Mexico, Catholicism incorporated pagan beliefs and rites into a new syncretism. The Indians were greatly attracted to Catholicism because of its sacramental character; its rituals; the opulence and splendor of its art, architecture, and music; and most of all the Cult of the Virgin (and saints).

The missionaries worked very hard for the humane treatment of Amerindians; relieved their suffering; and promoted their dignity. The natives were encouraged to retain the parts of their culture that did not directly conflict with Catholicism.

The Church provided education, social services, and health care for all the people in Mexico, which required the majority of the income and manpower the Church had at its disposal. The Church provided hospitals, hospices, homes for the mentally ill, homeless shelters, and orphanages. Sumptuous churches were built, complete with lavish, costly art and ornamentation.

Church services, festivals, and processions became the focal point of life in tribal villages.

SPANISH GALLEON
SPANISH GALLEON
COLONIAL MEXICO
COLONIAL MEXICO

MEXICO IN THE 16TH CENTURY

In the 1560s, enormous quantities of silver began to be shipped from Mexico to Spain.  To protect these shipments, Spain confined this shipping to twice a year, under heavy guard by Spanish Galleons.  While silver dominated these shipments, there was also some gold, as well as sugar and hides.

Spain conquered the Philippines in the 1560s, which begat transpacific trade between Acapulco and Manila. 

Besides settlers, Spain shipped large quantities of animals, grain, seeds, oil, and wine to Mexico.  The most important item sent to the New World was mercury, also known as quicksilver, which was essential to the extraction of silver.  Because shipments of mercury were closely accounted for, the Crown could accurately predict the amount of silver it could expect in return. 

Mining towns sprang up that had to be supplied with food, clothes, tools, animals, and building materials.  The pack mule was the chief animal required. 

The Spanish Crown did not countenance disloyalty.  In 1566, a conspiracy to make Hernando Cortés's son Martin the Emperor of Mexico was crushed. 

Around 1600, the demand for labor in Mexico, coupled with the dwindling Indian population due to disease, caused an influx of African slaves.  Besides mining, great building projects were underway—ports, roads, fortifications, mansions, palaces, and churches. 

Things changed after Spain went bankrupt three times in the late 16th century. 

BUST OF PIET HEYN
BUST OF PIET HEYN

MEXICO IN THE 17TH CENTURY

 Spain's European enemies sought to interrupt the shipments of silver from Mexico.  The English, the French, and later the Dutch governments quietly backed pirates who plundered the Spanish ships.  The greatest such plunder came in 1628, when the entire Spanish treasure fleet was seized by the Dutchman Piet Heyn. 

Silver mining required massive capital, technical expertise, a high level of organization and infrastructure, and a large labor force.  The Valenciana mine had shafts 2,000 feet deep and 200 feet in circumference, while it employed 3,000 people.   A shortage of mercury after 1635 led to a sharp downturn in the production of silver in Mexico. 

The Spaniards settled mostly in central and north-central Mexico.  North-central Mexico was where most silver mines were located.  The primary mining areas had never been highly populated by Amerindians. 

Indian communities in southern Mexico generally held on to their land.  In fact, two-thirds of agricultural lands in Mexico, mostly devoted to maize and beans, were owned by Indians in the year 1800. 

MEXICO CITY CATHEDRAL
MEXICO CITY CATHEDRAL
MAP OF NEW SPAIN 1650
MAP OF NEW SPAIN 1650

THE HACIENDA

A new development in 17th century Mexico is the Hacienda.  A Hacienda is a sprawling estate that came to be the powerful economic unit of Mexico, and the source of social status.  The Hacienda would include a mansion with numerous servants, horses, cattle, and varieties of agricultural crops. 

A hacienda was a theatre where a man of authority could put on a social performance to exhibit the level of his social status by his number of dependents, visitors, servants and workers; and show his nobility through acts of generosity, conspicuous consumption, and displays of honor and gallantry. 

Haciendas were in perpetual financial trouble.  The proprietors begat many offspring, which begat many more offspring in the next generation, and all of them had to be kept in high style and grandeur for social prestige.  The owner of a hacienda was also expected to be the major benefactor of the local churches.  Profits were low, expenses were high, and the haciendas were mortgaged to the hilt. One poor harvest spelled disaster.  Inheritance laws required that upon the death of a paterfamilias, the hacienda was divided up amongst all of his children. 

As the Hacienda system waned, Spaniards changed the criterion of social status from land to racial purity.  Those Spaniards with 100% European ancestry—with white skin—were known as Creoles.  Whiteness distinguished the conquerors from the conquered in Mexico.  Any taint of Indian, African, or even Jewish blood, moved you down the social ladder.  Distinguished families forged alliances through marriage. 

SLAVERY IN MEXICO

Approximately 30,000 African slaves were brought to Mexico in the early 17th century, mostly to coastal areas. The enslavement of inferior peoples was accepted worldwide at the time, including in Europe. The Catholic Church saw slavery as the unfortunate lot in life of some people, and condoned the enslavement of savages as a means of bringing them to the knowledge of the true faith, as long as they were treated humanely.

Africans born in Mexico who were thoroughly Hispanicized were elevated eventually to Negro Creole status. Newly imported Africans were the lowest caste in Mexico, Negroes bozales, which meant savage, violent, unbroken animals requiring a muzzle (bozal).

By the 18th century, blacks had upgraded to become free subjects of the Crown and sons of the Church.  They could own property, enter into legal contracts, obtain an education, and strive for prosperity. But they continued to occupy the lowest end of the social scale.

LADY OF COLONIAL MEXICO
LADY OF COLONIAL MEXICO

RACE IN MEXICO

Small numbers of women from Spain ever migrated to Mexico.  Inevitably, this led to mixed breeding of the races, which led to a caste system according to racial blood.  The offspring of a Spaniard and Indian was a mestizo; of a Spaniard and a Negro a mulatto; of an Indian and a Negro a zambo.   

Only Spaniards were allowed to hold public office, become a priest, or study at university.  The social status then from top to bottom was: Spaniards born in Spain; Spaniards born in Mexico; Amerindians; mestizos; mulattos; negro creoles;  zambos; negroes  bozales. 

As society developed and blood became more and more mixed, social status was decided by color, but also by social behavior.  There were deep divisions between races and classes, and as always, those toward the bottom seethed with resentment toward those toward the top.  There was also a high degree of cultural diversity. 

In the 17th century, Indians came to be seen as lazy, dirty, ignorant, and given to habitual drunkenness.  As a result, they began to slide down the social scale past the mestizos, and perhaps even the mulattos. 

OLD MEXICO CITY
OLD MEXICO CITY

ARTS & SOCIETY IN COLONIAL MEXICO

Mexico City acquired its first printing press in 1535 and first university in 1553. The theatre became extremely popular in the 17th century. Mexico produced its first renowned dramatist in the hunchback Juan Ruiz de Alarcon (1581-1639); its first famous composer, Francisco Lopez Capillas; its first great musician, Manuel de Zumaya (1678-1755).

Mexico City developed a late afternoon ritual in which the upper classes would stroll the streets dressed in all their finery. The society was gregarious, pleasure loving, and sexually lax.

The beauty and charm of Mexico City rivaled that of cities in Spain by the 17th century. Great attention was focused on science, economics, commerce, agriculture, and education.

In 1808, Napoleon invaded Spain and destroyed the Catholic monarchy. Spain no longer had the power to control Mexico. It was time for Mexican Independence. And that is where we will take up our story next time.

My sources for this article include: The Penguin History of Latin America by Edwin Williamson; America by George Brown Tindall and David E. Shi; and Latin America: A Concise Interpretive History by E. Bradford Burns and Julie A. Charlip.


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Comments 76 comments

Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 5 years ago from Moundsville, WV

James,

It seem's to me that Progressives have rewritten all history of the Americas even Christopher Columbus isn't celebrated anymore and called a racist. For slaughtering Amerindians.

The Amerindians in my area slaughtered a far advanced culture the Mound Builders or Adena who were not uncivlized as shown by their abilites towards agriculture and settling in one place and building walled cities.

The Amerindians were really savages!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Writer David profile image

Writer David 5 years ago from Mobile, AL

Seems what few Mexican friend I have are going to get a copy of this James, if you don't mind. They are always talking about the savagery of the white man against those of a different color. I want them to read this.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

Great post! History repeats itself. We also have modern day savages and it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad. Sometimes one side is dead and can't speak.

All history should be made available for all who seek to get a better perspective.

No race is innocent. Why not evolve though? Our weapons do!


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

The people of Mexico were called the Mejica which is where the country name came from. Mexico was not named after Huitzilopotchli, the Aztec god of war. Mexico and Huitzilopotchli sound nothing alike.

The Aztecs happened to occupy Tenochtitlan at the time of the Spanish arrival. They were not the only "aggressive, imperialist people, who had come from somewhere in the north to conquer Mexico". Tenochtitlan was not built by the Aztecs. In fact, no one to this day knows who built it.

All of the tribes of pre-columbian America warred against each other. The Aztecs received prominence simply because they occupied the most favorable trade routes.

All of the tribes practiced the "war of flowers" to capture the opposition alive in order to sacrifice them to the gods. A barbaric religious practice to be sure, but it was the custom of the time.

And while the Aztecs had not "invented" the wheel, they did indeed have a written language which was mostly destroyed by the Catholics in their zeal to eliminate every "heretical" book other than the bible and books that supported the bible.

Other than these few details, I liked the hub. But I found many paragraphs to be skewed toward the "conservative right" as it were. No, the Amerindians were not total savages, but neither were they "noble". Facts are facts. I suspect they were just people trying to go along with the status quo just like us.


advisor4qb profile image

advisor4qb 5 years ago from On New Footing

I loved this subject in college, too. I hated that the children who were mixed were discriminated against, because they couldn't help their heritage! But this is a beautifully done hub!


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

Excellent Hub...Rich and informative. I agree with advisor4qb comments as well. It's also amazing the opinions of "others" to our hubs...and History does repeat its self...and we should never forget that.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA

James - You covered the subject well. Nice job.

Gus :-)))


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Tom Whitworth— Thank you for being my first visitor. You are so right about the Progressive revision of history, designed to denigrate America, Western Civilization, or we could simply say: the white male.

I have a friend who is a school teacher that told me this: The day after Columbus Day, she overheard a brand new social studies teacher, 24 years old, fresh out of college, tell her 5th grade students that Columbus was a mass murderer, similar to Hitler. I am serious.

I recently read a great Hub about the Adena and moundbuilders by a new Hubber:

http://hubpages.com/education/The-Mound-Builders-t...


gg.zaino profile image

gg.zaino 5 years ago from L'America

I appreciate your effort here.

The clash of cultures swept the history of the indigenous people all over Mexico, the Yucatan and South America off the history books. The Portuguese were no better.

That grave crime should not be overlooked. Religion, science, medicine, and wonders of architecture were forever sent to the deep. We are left with only questions because of short sighted, Ego driven men of the false cloth.

For instance, The Mayan codex system of records and the keys to an entire cultures writing were burnt by priests who served a corrupt Roman Pope and unscrupulous king.

The cost is unfathomable in the understanding Pre-Columbian civilization. The treachery for precious metals and the overzealous missionaries debauchery cannot be calculated. An entire way of life was driven to extinction.

The Spaniards took full advantage of their weight. There was no peace once the Spaniards smelled yellow metal. the sins of the fathers....

peace my friend.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Writer David— I certainly do not mind, in fact I will be honored for you to pass around my work. Thank you!

The most exciting part is yet to come, as I am writing now about the History of Mexico as a nation, from 1810 to present. We should understand our neighbors, and where they are coming from.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Micky Dee— Thank you! It is good to hear from you again.

I surely agree with you that there are indeed modern day savages, and that no race is innocent. To evolve to something better is surely a noble goal. I appreciate your comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Austinstar— The origin of the name Mexico is not for certain. M?xihtli was the name for the god of war in which case M?xihco means "Place where M?xihtli lives". This seems to be the most popular view but there are several others.

Another hypothesis suggests that the word M?xihco derives from the m?tztli ("moon"), in which case it means "Place at the center of the moon."

Since you seem pretty sure of yourself, I'll accept your concept. Huitzilopotchli was the sun god, yes?

It is very interesting that you assert the Aztecs had a written language. The three history books I have say they only had hyrogliphics.

You are certainly well studied in this history. I appreciate you coming by and sharing your knowledge with us.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

advisor4qb— Thank you for your kind compliments. You are surely right that children cannot help their ancestry. At least in America, anybody can rise above any circumstances or family background.


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

I get the impression that you know most of these details by heart from your excellent writing. The only item I take exception to is "Gunpowder brought the little girl out in the bravest Indian warrior." Although I might say it is a biased statement, actually it supplied just the right touch of humor to otherwise very serious pieces of history. Illustrates well that weapons, even of mass destruction, terrorism and genocide have always, unfortunately, existed. Too bad we have never really managed to learn from history. As always, masterfully executed. I'd vote for you for president.


ama83 profile image

ama83 5 years ago from San Jose, CA

I think the influence of the Spanish on Mexico is so interesting. I especially think it's funny when I actually meet people who do not realize that Mexicans have both Spanish and Native American background.

Great information you have here! :)


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

James, iv'e certainly enjoyed the great history lesson, well written.Thank you. I know you put a lot of research in this hub.

Cheers


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Because you are such an assiduous researcher, James, I always learn new nuggets of information from your well-written historical hubs. This hub was no exception. Thank you.


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

James,

A great overview of Mexico's rich history. Its easy today to look at Mexico without looking at its history and traditions.and what a loss that would be. Another great read, very well done.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago

I think I've said this before, but I'll repeat it. You make history interesting, James. It's not a subject I'm naturally drawn to, but I love your history hubs. I hope you do one on the Incas soon! Thanks.


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

Well James...better you than me, lol. Very interesting hub and great pictures, a very entertaining while.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Hi James,

Huitzilopotchli was the Aztec god of war. Yes, he was also a sun god, and yes, they did have other war gods, but Huitzi was the big one for the Aztecs.

I'm not sure which god you are referring to "M?xihtli"? Mixtli was the name of the main character in the book Aztec by Gary Jennings which tells the story of the Aztecs in the way that Michener tells the story of the Hawaiians.

It is a recent discovery that the Aztecs and Mayans "hieroglyphics" were more of a written language that just glyphs.

"It is also very complex, with hundreds of unique signs or glyphs in the form of humans, animals, supernaturals, objects, and abstract designs. These signs are either logograms (to express meaning) or syllabograms (to denote sound values), and are used to write words, phrases, and sentences. In fact, the Maya can write anything that they can say." from http://www.ancientscripts.com/maya.html

The Aztecs "borrowed" pretty much everything from the Maya who were very much more advanced than they were. But the Aztecs did it in a bigger, more flamboyant way. Also, the Spaniards never conquered the Maya, they did finally sign treaties, but the Maya never fell to Spanish Conquistadores.

I don't consider myself an expert by any means, but I have studied the Aztec and Maya for many years on an informal basis. I speak Spanish, but only a few words in Mayan. I paint the Aztec gods because I love the bright colors, not necessarily what they represent. The Mayan gods are softer, but no less bloodthirsty.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Wow James, awsome hub. I wish you had been teaching when I was in school, I might know more about history if you had. Very well presented and an interesting read.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 5 years ago

Completely fascinating! I have to admit, I know little about this time period or the events that transpired. Tonight, I learned something.............. and then I laughed out loud. You are too funny.............. :-D They say that laughter adds years to your life.......... if it does; I am guaranteed a few more years! Thanks teacher............ for the education and the laughter! Kaie


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 5 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

I enjoyed this read-- as always you tell a fascinating story, James.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

James - You have another career waiting for you in education. If history was this interesting in school I'd have paid more attention. Thanks for the great read.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

b. Malin— Thank you for your kind compliments. One of the joys of Hubbing is to read the comments, and engage people on what you find interesting. I appreciate the visit.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

GusTheRedneck— Thank you, Gus. I appreciate you coming by and sharing that with me.

James :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

gg.zaino— I sincerely appreciate your impassioned remarks. Thank you for sharing your insights.

Your profile page is fascinating. I need to come over and read some of your latest work. I think I told you once before that my band played at the Pelican Post on Big Pine Key for a few months around twenty years ago. A fella named Henley owned it. I think he was Don Henley's cousin. We made a good friend there who was a diver named Boo.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Amy Becherer— I surely appreciate the vote of confidence, especially from a lovely lass such as yourself. The "little girl" thing is an old southern idiom that is not generally applied to warfare or the Native Americans. I enjoyed your comments. Thanks for coming!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

ama83— Thank you for taking the time to read my work. I appreciate your kind comments. Always a pleasure to hear from you. :-)


gg.zaino profile image

gg.zaino 5 years ago from L'America

James, :) Are you known as Jack Watkins? There is a nature trail here named after a Jack, my involvement here in the Keys has been lees than a year. My woman has been here on Big Pine for just under 20 years. Come by, lets chat James! :]-~

do you still tour? coming back?

peace my friend ~ greg z


CheyenneAutumn profile image

CheyenneAutumn 5 years ago

I love reading the things you post! You fill them with so much information and I feel like I learn new things every time I read them. You never let me down. Great job James!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

always exploring— You are welcome, dear. I am glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading my work and leaving your kind comments. :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

drbj— You are quite welcome. I love to read, research, and write about history. I am happy to have brought you pleasure. Thank you for coming!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

bgpappa— Hey! It's good to hear from you, friend. Thank you for your gracious compliments. I agree with you that it is important to look at Mexico through its historical context. I'll have the rest of the story done by tomorrow—I hope.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

kimh039— Awww . . . it feels really good for me to read your warm words. Thank you and you are welcome.

I don't think I'll do the Incas because just last week I read a fabulous Hub about the Incas by a brand new Hubber. Check it out!

http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Incas


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Hello Molly my dear! I am glad you came by to visit. Thank you for reading my little article, and thanks for your comment, too. :-)


CASE1WORKER profile image

CASE1WORKER 5 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

James- this was really well written- I really enjoyed sitting here and reading. That so many amerindians died of "european" diseases goes to illustrate how confined their civilisation must have been before the arrival of the Spanish- thanks for the effort you have put into this


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 5 years ago

What I like is how you explain history according to the beliefs and practices of the times. Too many people base their understanding of the past on the norms of today.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Austinstar— Thank you very much for clarifying things for me and all of us. Your knowledge is extensive indeed. I named my band after a Mayan term, "White Summer." This was in the Mayan culture the highest a human being could go in his consciousness without severing the silver thread, or golden cord, that anchors us to this earthly plane. I read about this in the book "Center of the Cyclone" by John C. Lilly in 1972 and thought, well, the White Summer plateau is where making music takes me. Thus it is the name I chose for my band, which carried on until 1991 with that name—though no one understood it.

John C. Lilly was into astral projection and he also did groundbreaking work with dolphins, Mayans, and Lysergic acid diethylamide.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Old Poolman— I so appreciate your laudations, my friend. I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was young, my inner circle called me "the sage." :D

I guess I finally got my chance to teach because of HubPages.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Kaie Arwen— You are most welcome, my dear. What about this article was so funny? I am well pleased to have added years to your life through laughter. God Bless You Dear.

I so enjoy it when you comment on my Hubs. Thank you for making my day! :D


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

carolina muscle— Thank you! Thank you very much. :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

PegCole17— You are welcome! Thank you for your kind compliments. I would love to teach History and/or Social Studies, but it would take too long to get the teaching degree required.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

gg.zaino— I'm afraid I don't know jack. :D

I quit the music business a long time ago. But I was in it over 20 years. I haven't been down to the Keys in a long time. But if I come that way, I'll write to you first.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

CheyenneAutumn— I appreciate the applause! :-)

Thank you for letting me know you love my work. It makes a man feel good!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

CASE1WORKER— You are most welcome, dear. You make an excellent point in your comments. Thank you for your affirmation and encouragement.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

sheila b.— You are so right. There is nothing worse than writing about people in the past as if they were here living now. People are best understood in the context of their times. Thank you for your comments. :)


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you, James, for such a comprehensive and brilliant hub. One point I found a bit confusing is that the Astec were always describe as a great tribe, apart from human sacrifice, building great cities. Yet, you were describing tham otherwise or did I misunderstand?


eovery profile image

eovery 5 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

You are a wealth of information.

Keep on hubbing!


MagicStarER profile image

MagicStarER 5 years ago from Western Kentucky

Well written, as usual, James! And very interesting! But much has been altered in the evolution of written history over the years. I lived in Mexico for 12 years. It is very true that the Spaniards massively slaughtered Indians. This is very much a part of history of Mexico as recorded by Mexicans themselves. They were slaughtered because they were "pagan savages". Any pagan altars were destroyed and churches built at the sites. Cholula, Puebla, for example, has over 360 churches. Any Indians who were not murdered, were enslaved. They were forced to become Christians, or they were killed.

The Aztecs and Mayans were not the only Indians in Mexico. There were hundreds of different tribes, as there still are today, with almost as many different dialects, customs, dress, and diets. The Spanish, and later the French, raped the country of Mexico and its people, and tragically, incalculable treasure, not only physical, but also intellectual and spiritual, was lost forever. In Cholula, many thousands of Cholulteca Indians were slaughtered, and their often times headless bodies dumped in mass graves. (How do I know this? Because a house where I lived down there was one of these sites! They dug for a parking lot and found the bones! Among other relics...)

As far as the origin of the name of the country Mexico, here is Mexico's version (the right one!)

"El nombre de México viene del azteca mexitli, que significa 'pueblo de los mexicas', nombre que se daban a sí mismos los aztecas, en honor a su dios de la guerra Mexitli. Se llama así también la capital federal, México Ciudad. El nombre de México conserva su antigua escritura con equis, pero se pronuncia como jota en español."

Bare bones translation:

The Aztecs of Mexico City called themselves the "City of Mexicas" (or Mejitlas) in honor of their God of War "Mexitli".

In the beginning, this referred to an island surrounded by water, and the name of the island was Mexhico. The name later came to refer to the entire region inhabited by the Aztec Mejicas. (now Mexico City)

The Aztec culture was very advanced, and yes they did have written language, but it was only practiced by & taught to priests. They practiced farming and had extensive trade routes. They built very advanced pyramids, water and irrigation systems, and their culture was quite advanced. The one big blot was the human sacrifices made to the God HUITZILOPOCHTLI (Nahuatl name for God of War)

The history of Mexico is indeed very interesting, but also very cruel and blood-thirsty.

Austinstar is totally correct about the book "Aztec" by Gary Jennings. It is absolutely the best book I have ever read. And I have ready many tens of thousands! So that is really saying something - I highly recommend that book! Awesome!

Thanks for a good read, James! I enjoyed it! :)


MagicStarER profile image

MagicStarER 5 years ago from Western Kentucky

Here is a very good link about the Nahuatl and later Aztecan Gods: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitolog%C3%ADa_mexica The Aztecs conquered the Nahuatls and adopted many of their gods and religious practices, including the sacrifices to Huizilopochtli.


Marcella Glenn 5 years ago from PA

A novel or two could be spun from your hub.


MagicStarER profile image

MagicStarER 5 years ago from Western Kentucky

So true! Anytime I get writer's block, I just read a hub written by James, and I always end up with something interesting to write about! Thanks, James! You are inspiring! :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Hello, hello,— You are most welcome. The Aztecs were a great tribe—the greatest of Amerindian tribes. Still, they were 2,000 years behind Europeans if you buy into Darwinian evolution. According to the official doctrines of multiculturalism, Aztecs had a civilization equal to that of Europe. Not true by any stretch of the imagination.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

eovery— Thank you! Thank you very much. :D


diogenes 5 years ago

Early man has been in Mexico since around 10,000 BC, the first said to arrive from the Northern Asiatic tribes following gaame such as mammoths. The so called Golden Age of pre-Columbian Mexico was between 150 BC and 8 to 900 AD. There are many ruins of great cities built during this period. They indicate a highly organized society - or societies. Government and religion were one and dominated by the high priests. During the eighth century, these cities were abandoned and no one really knows why, so much was swallowed by the jungles and has only been rediscovered over the last 100 years. The Toltecs originated the legend of Quetzalcoatl - the Plumed Serpent. His father was Mixcoatl. The Azecs, or their forerunners, the MexicaAztecs, arrived as a barbarian band 1000 strong and ocupied Chapultepec Hill. Coxcox, the king of Culhuacan, hearing that the tribe had scrificed and skinned his own daughter, sent his arny to wipe them out. Those Aztecs who escaped the king's wrath hid in the reeds on the edge of Lake Texcoco, later occupying an island on the lake, spawning the legend of the Eagle and the Serpent, which would become Tenochtitlan and, eventually, Mexico City.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

MagicStarER— Thank you for your gracious compliments. It is good to hear from you. I see that you are well versed in this subject. I appreciate this visit, whereby you share your knowledge with us.

I surely agree with you that much has been altered in the writing of history. Over the past fifty years, progressive activists have revised history in order to raise all cultures except the European to near mythic proportions of wonderfulness, while making the Europeans (and Americans of European stock) the cause of every ill ever known to man. My mission is to cut through all that and present the truth.

The massacre you mention at Cholula was terrible alright, but let's keep it in perspective. We are talking about 3,000 people here. 1,500,000,000 died in the Battle of the Bulge.

It was against the law to enslave Indians under Spanish Law. The silver that was "raped" from Indian lands was underground where the Indians neither knew it was there; nor could have possible gotten it out of the ground. They had not discovered the extraction process using Mercury that made the silver available.

The book you mention is fiction (Just for the record).

Your comments are excellent and I appreciate you making them here. And you are welcome.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

MagicStarER— Thank you for that link. I checked it out and it is very interesting. There is a recent Hub by a new Hubber about the Aztecs that is fantastic. I think you'll enjoy it:

http://hubpages.com/education/The-Aztec-Empire


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Marcella Glenn— Thank you! I wouldn't be any good at writing a novel, so you should have at it! :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

MagicStarER— You are welcome! Thank you for these gracious words! You've made my day!! :D


daPuma5 5 years ago

James- First, I have to thank you for adding the link to my Hub. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.

Second, this was great! I've read through a number of your history Hubs; without doubt, you are HubPages most sagacious historian. Thanks for all of the great information.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

diogenes— Fantastic rendition of the backstory to this piece. Thank you very much for sharing your vast knowledge of this area with me and my readers. We are enriched for it. Well done!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

daPuma5— You are welcome. Your article is superb and therefore it was my pleasure to provide a link to it.

Sagacious, eh? I like that! Thank you every much. And you are welcome.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

James, thanks for another wonderfully illustrated slice of history. You have created another well-written and informative article, as I have grown to expect from you.:D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

RedElf— You are welcome. I am well pleased to have met your expectations. Thank you for the wonderful accolades. :)


libby101a profile image

libby101a 5 years ago from KY

Great hub James! I enjoyed reading it. I'm also in the contest with my "The Deja Vu Phenomenon"! All of the hubs are great!!! Good Luck!!!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

libby101a— We are in a competition! Am I allowed to talk to you before it's over? :D

I wish you the best. Thank you for dropping by and offering your compliments. I appreciate you. :-)


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 5 years ago

Hey teacher, just dropped by to read this one more time and print it off for the kids. I had forgotten how well written this is.............. and truthful! ;-) Kaie


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Kaie Arwen— I hope it serves you well with the kids. Thank you ever much for the gracious compliments. It was good of you to review this for me. I always appreciate hearing from you, Kaie.

James


Baileybear 4 years ago

how 'civilized' and 'modernised' a culture is is nothing to do with biological evolution. Whether you like it or not, all 'modern' humans (including the Aztecs, Mexicans etc) are all the same 'race'/'species'.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Baileybear— I surely agree with you that all human beings are of the same species.

I am not sure what you are referring to in regard to evolution. Some previous comment?

As far as I know evolution claims the human race is ever evolving. How do you explain that many peoples found in the 19th and 20th century had not evolved at all in 2000 years or more, while other peoples had constantly "evolved?"

Thank you for visiting and commenting.


Baileybear 4 years ago

You wrote a hub about evolution. You still misunderstand what biological evolution is. Western cultures are not more 'evolved' biologically at all.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Baileybear— Evolution means change. If a people do not change in thousands of years, they are no evolving. Evolution means successfully adapting to environment. Obviously, some peoples have done so far better than others.


Aztec 4 years ago

What a European edge on your piece. As of yet there is no proof of sacrifice but the Spanish criminals accounts. As for you saying they were no where near Europe, you are right. They were far more advanced. But I can say this, whoever wins the war will always write history to their benefit. As I see it you are just another white man spreading propaganda. Lies Lies Lies. Your piece is hurtful and arrogant to those of us who are the true Aztec ancestors. You should write a piece on Hitler. Maybe you can agree with him on how savage the Jewish people were to justify their extermination. Opinions and theories are like assholes. Everyone has one.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Aztec-- Thank you for taking the time to visit my Hub and read my article. I do appreciate hearing from you, with your Aztec point of view.

Are you actually claiming that the Aztecs did not practice human sacrifice? I have never seen that disputed by any historian. I have been to Mexico, and my tour guide took us to a place where such sacrifices took place.

The Aztecs were more advanced than the Europeans? As I said in my article: "The Aztecs were a primitive people in that they had not yet entered the Iron Age, nor discovered the wheel, nor created a written language; which means they were well over two thousand years behind the Europeans in what Darwin would call evolution."

What about that do you dispute?

And if the Aztecs were superior, as you say, how in the world did 600 men conquer an Aztec Empire the size of the Roman Empire?

My intention here is surely not propaganda. I despise propaganda. I am a seeker of the truth. And I am 3/16 Cherokee Indian, so I refute your claim of bias or lies.

As I wrote, "While the Amerindians used dugout canoes, the Spanish had circumnavigated the globe in heavily armed, seaworthy vessels." Is that not true?

I have written about Hitler, but surely not to justify extermination of any people.

As I wrote in this article, "The catastrophic decline in Indian populations—estimated at up to 90%—was not from mass genocide, but from European carried diseases for which the Indians had no immunity—especially the small pox virus."

That is not morally equivalent to Hitler's gas chambers.

This article in no way reflects my personal opinion. On the contrary, I used three highly respected books for research. As I noted in my article:

"My sources for this article include: The Penguin History of Latin America by Edwin Williamson; America by George Brown Tindall and David E. Shi; and Latin America: A Concise Interpretive History by E. Bradford Burns and Julie A. Charlip."

These are not opinion pieces or commentaries; they are history books.

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