Aztec Identity Narratives: From Aztlán to the D.F.

  • Abstract:

    The Aztecs crafted a hegemonic political, religious, societal, and cultural topography in the basin of Mexico during the fifteenth century. This occurred a mere three hundred years after Nahuatl speakers emigrated from the mythic land of Aztlán to the Lake Texcoco of Central Mexico region during the Middle Postclassic Period (AD 1150 – 1350). The Aztecs, a composite and irredentist people of several city-states in the Basin of Mexico, asserted themselves militarily to maintain a cohesive societal structure, extended from the locus of the Mexican capital of Tenochtitlán (Figure 1). Various scholars have examined political, ceremonial, commercial and social roles, before and well after the Hispanic advent. Others concentrate on explicating the identities and roles of the religious Aztec pantheon. However, the branding of an objective / subjective meta-Aztec identity that transcends specific roles (for example: that of the king, the priest, the warrior, the sage, the medic, the mother, et cetera) the me remains for consideration. This paper investigates the problematization of Aztec identity (its constant erasure and re-inscription since the Middle Postclassic Period) through a structuralist assessment of ritual in late PostClassic and Aztec colonial manuscripts. It culminates in equally problematic notions of the resultant Mexican identity manifest in the Mexican visual arts of the twentieth century.