Before founding Tenochtitlan, the Mexicas made a pilgrimage for more than 250 years from a city that according to the codices, it was to the north of the Valley of Mexico and kept an intimate similarity with the capital of the Mexica Empire that amazed the Spanish:
It was about Aztlan (‘place of herons’), a city located in the middle of a lake with abundance of natural resources: multicolored birds and birds, lush vegetation and fish of all sizes that together provided everything necessary to live.
The different descriptions of this site raised high expectations in the Spanish, who years before had been fascinated by Tenochtitlan, a floating city made up of causeways and islets on Lake Texcoco, with large temples and markets that inspired all kinds of flattery in the chronicles. of the conquerors.
From Aztlán to Tenochtitlan
Photo: Page from a book published in 1524, belonging to the Newberry Library in Chicago, shows a map of Tenochtitlán (right) and an outline of the Gulf of Mexico. Wikimedia.
Although the history of Aztlán was recovered by different New Hispanic chroniclers, it was Fray Diego Durán who was in charge of investigating more about it and from different codices and stories, its version was well known during the second half of the 16th century and even inspired different failed expeditions with the intention of finding Aztlán.
According to Miguel León-Portilla, Aztlán was governed by the Aztecs-Chicomoztocas, a dominant and tyrannical group, of which the Mexicas were slaves. This is the main reason why according to the codices, Tezcatlipoca ordered them emigrate looking for a place to found his city.
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Since then, the myth coincides with the historiographical sources that Aztlán was the place of origin of many Nahua peoples of central Mexico called Aztatecas (‘from Aztlán’) who decided to free themselves from the tyranny of the Aztecs.
However, the story pays special attention to the migration of only one of these towns, those led by the priest Huítzil, who on Tezcatlipoca’s orders have changed their names to Mexicas ever since:
“And right there, the Aztecs changed their name. He said to them: Now your name will no longer be that of the Aztecs, you will be Mexica, and there he enchanted their ears. So the Mexicas took their name. And there he gave them the arrow and the bow and the net. What flew, the Mexica did well “: Codex Aubin.
Where is the mythical city from which the Mexicas left?
The obligatory question about location of Aztlán It has been a constant for at least 450 years.
Some historians have tried to find the precise location of Aztlán in the national geography from a detailed analysis of the codices, and some even identify Mexcaltitán, a town west of Nayarit located on an island, with the mythical city.
However, it is most likely that the myth of Aztlán, the city from which the Mexicas left and that even the Spanish came to consider as a sort of Eden, is based on a mythical projection de Tenochtitlan, a parable that symbolically justifies Mexica migration and the foundation of the capital in the Valley of Mexico.
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