When it comes to the most widely known peoples of both of the pre-Columbian Americas, the Aztecs are one of them. National Geographic (n.d.) states that the Aztecs had to migrate from their homeland Aztlan to a land named Tenochtitlan, a modern Mexico. Initially, the Aztec people were subordinate to the Tepanec there and paid tribute to them. However, after a while, the Mexica – as the Aztecs called themselves – formed an alliance with two other cities and were able to establish regional control. What made the rise of the Aztecs possible was an agricultural system that provided the population with food. Alongside a solar calendar, Mexica priests used a ritual calendar for divination. Moreover, according to National Geographic (n.d.), the Aztecs used to religiously practice bloodletting (one offering their blood) and human sacrifice. It is believed that the reaction of Spaniards to these practices was at least in part responsible for the Spanish conquest’s violence.
Another dominant Mesoamerican Indigenous society was the Maya civilization. Unlike the Aztecs and other Indigenous peoples, the Maya did not move and were centralized in a single geographical block (History.com, 2021). However, just like the Aztecs, the Maya gave rise to amazing cultural advances. They believed in life’s cyclical nature, and it influenced their viewings of the gods and the cosmos. In turn, the Mayans’ cosmological views inspired their creative efforts in mathematics, architecture, and astronomy. Below the surface was the dark kingdom, Xibalba, from where towered the Tree of Life, through the earth and into heaven, to reach the paradise, Tamoanchan. The Mayans’ great pyramids are said to be replicas of the Witzob, the gods’ great mountain (History.com, 2021). The cyclical nature of life is reflected in the Mayan calendar, and the Quiche Maya’s religious book, the Popol-Vuh, tells this story in great detail.
History.com (2021). Maya.
National Geographic. (n.d.). Aztec civilization.