Mexican/Aztec history

Mexico is a diverse country and a millennial culture with the Olmecan tribe being the first civilization that appeared around 1500 years BC. Mexico is rich in traditions, history, art and religion offering a complete tourist infrastructure that guarantees a comfortable and secure stay of those visiting its different destinations.

EARLY MEXICO

There is evidence of the existence of humans in Mexico in ~20,000 BC. A skeleton from Mexico analysed by Carbon dating was found to be from the period of ~10,000 BC. It is known that agriculture was in use in southern parts of Mexico in 3000 BC. The Mexico region or the Mesoamerica region was the first approach to civilisation encountered on the American continent.

The Mesoamerican region included people of many different ethnic origins with a variety of languages but all had a similar culture in that they:
All cultivated corn
Had a single structure of goverment
Followed a 365 day calendar
Built pyramids

Followed similar rituals and worshipped the same gods and goddesses of nature, sky, fertility and war.
Several cultures developed in the history of Mexico.The mysterious Olmecs were the first and had a far reaching influence on subsequent cultures, although little is known about where they came from or why they disappeared. Next were the Teotihuacans who occupied the central highland of Mexico. The city-state of Teotihuacan is said to have had a population of 200,000 in 350 AD. It was probably one of the largest cities in the world at the time and it influenced all areas of the Mesoamerican region.

The Toltecs could be found in the north of the Valley of Mexico, probably before the end of 600 AD. They built Tula, one of Mexico’s most impresssive ancient cities. The Toltecs strongly influenced later Mayan and Aztec cultures. The Mayans are thought to be one of the most influential cultures. They invented complex systems of mathematics and were master engineers and architects. They also controlled a huge empire and were skilled traders. The Zapotec and Mixtec developed in the valley of Oaxaca. They were excellent builders and artists, they created temples, pottery and metal work.
Descendants of both these ancient cultures still inhabit the state of Oaxaca today.

THE AZTECS

The Aztecs arrived from the remote regions of the north around about 1200 AD. For a long time they lived a nomadic lifestyle enduring many hardships. At one stage the Aztecs were enslaved by a more powerful tribe, but they proved to be too ferocious to handle. After more wanderings, they finally settled on the south-western borders of the main lake of Mexico in 1325.

Legend has it that it was here that the Aztecs saw what was believed to be an a sign showing them that this should be the site of their future city. They saw a great royal eagle perched on the stem of a prickly pear. He had a serpent in his talons and his magnificent wings were spread against the sunrise.

The low marshes near the lake were half buried under water, so the Aztecs sank piles into the shallows and erected their homes and floating gardens. They lived off wild fowl and the vegetables they could raise in their gardens. This place was called Tenochtitlan, though only known to Europeans as Mexico, derived from their war-god Mexitli.

Conditions were far from ideal in the new settlement, and to make it worse, a group of citizens broke off from the main group and moved to a neighbouring marsh. This resulted in domestic feuds and prevented the Aztecs from successfully expanding into other areas. However they gradually increased in numbers and improved their organsiation and military discipline, soon gaining a fearsome reputation in the Mexican Valley for being courageous and cruel in war.

In the early part of the 1400’s an event took place that changed the circumstances for the Aztecs. The monarchy of the neighbouring city of Tezcucan was taken over by another group The Tepanecs. This aroused a great spirit of resistance in the prince of Tezcucan, Nezahualcoyotl, who after much peril and some incredible escapes, mustered up enough force with the help of the Aztecs to defeat the Tepanecs and slaughter their leader. In return for their assistance, the Aztecs were rewarded with the conquered territories.

Then a league was formed between the neighbouring states of Tezcuco, Mexico and the little kingdom of Tlacopan that is unparallelled in history. It was agreed that the three states should support each other in wars and distribute the wealth among them. This alliance soon began to spread out of the Mexican Valley and by the middle of the 1400’s, under the rule of the first Montezuma had spread down the sides of the tableland to the borders of the Gulf of Mexico. The Aztec capital , Tenochtitlan prospered and feuds were ended to bring the people under one government.

The throne was filled by a succession of princes who were able to profit from their enlarged resources and the enthusiasm of the nation to engage in war. Year after year the armies returned with spoils from conquered cities and captives. No state in the Mesoamerican region was able to resist the growing strength of the conquerers. By the start of the 1500’s, the Aztec dominion had spread (under the bold and bloody Ahuitzotl), across the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific and into the farthest corners of Guatemala and Nicuragua.

A BRIEF HISTORY ON SOME OF OUR FAVOURITE MEXICAN FOOD

The history of Mexican food is a long and diverse one. In the mid 1300’s, the Aztec Empire introduced chilli peppers, honey, salt and chocolate into their cooking.

When looking at the history of traditional Mexican food and food culture, it is interesting to note that many traditional Mexican meals were cooked over an open fire on ceramic pots or cast iron skillets.

Salsa was sold in the Aztec markets and was the Spanish word for sauce. It was uncooked and sometimes pureed until chunky, smooth, or chopped. Large red tomatoes, tomatillo, chipotle {a staple in the Aztec diet} and the avocado are found in the modern salsa, and are the same core ingredients used back then.

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the Mexican diet did not include dairy products, so cheese was unknown. The Spanish brought cows, goats, and sheep changing Mexican dietary habits for ever.

Corn is used to make masa, a dough for tamales, tortillas, gorditas, and many other corn-based foods. Corn is also eaten fresh, as corn on the cob and as a component of a number of dishes. Squash and peppers are also prominent in Mexican cuisine.

Mexican cuisine is considered one of the most varied in the world, after Chinese and Indian food. The most frequently used herbs and spices in Mexican cuisine are chillies, oregano, cilantro, epazote, cinnamon, and cocoa.

Chipotle, a smoke-dried jalapeño chilli, is also common in Mexican cuisine. Many Mexican dishes also contain garlic and onions.

Honey is an important ingredient in many Mexican dishes, such as the rosca de miel, a bundt-like cake, and in beverages such as balché.

We can also thank the Aztecs for chocolate. It was through them that the Spaniards brought this delicious discovery to Europe in 1657.

MEXICO TODAY

Mexico has a population of 97,483,412 inhabitants, according to the most recent census by the Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, Geografía e Informática (2000), with an ethnic composition of 60% mestizo, 30% Indian, 9% European and 1% other.

The official language of Mexico is Spanish and it has over 66 Indian languages; the local currency is the Mexican peso.

Reference: MEXICO TRAVEL GUIDE http://www.go2mexico.com/navigate.html

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