Professor Donnie Lawrence with Lupita Mercado & Mesoamerican Civilizations by Christina Warriner Donnie Lawrence


   The Nahua people were the  residents of central Mexico
before the Europeans arrived.   Their language, Nahuatl, is still spoken by 1.5 million people. 

   This site is a collaboration between ProfessorDonnieLawrence and students of Lupita Mercado at C.E.C.R.V.S. Canoa School in Puebla, Mexico and others at Bonita High School in the U.S.  The purpose of their 'Malinche Team' is to celebrate the Nahuatl language and related cultural artifacts of these original American natives.   They also want to compare and contrast this ancient culture with others around the world. 
   Among other projects, they will be translating original poems between and among Nahuatl, Spanish, and English.


Nahuan languages

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Linguistic classification: Uto-Aztecan
Proto-language: Proto-Nahuan

The Nahuan or Aztecan languages are those languages of the Uto-Aztecan language family that have undergone the sound change known as Whorf's Law changing the original /*t/ to [tɬ] before */a/.[1] Subsequently some Nahuan languages have changed /tl/ back to /t/ or to /l/, but it can still be seen that the language went through a -tl stage.[2]

The Nahuan are the extinct Pochutec language and the various Nahuatl varieties, including Pipil.                               


Category:Uto-Aztecan languages

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The main article for this category is Uto-Aztecan languages.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Uto-Aztecan languages.


This category has the following 4 subcategories, out of 4 total.





Pages in category "Uto-Aztecan languages"

The following 44 pages are in this category, out of 44 total. This list may not reflect recent changes (learn more).










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  1. Jump up ^ Whorf, Benjamin Lee (1937). "The origin of Aztec tl". American Anthropologist 39: 265–274. 
  2. Jump up ^ Campbell, Lyle; and Ronald Langacker (1978). "Proto-Aztecan vowels: Part I". International Journal of American Linguistics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 44 (2): 85–102. doi:10.1086/465526. OCLC 1753556. 

The Nahua people were the  residents of central Mexico
before the Europeans arrived.   Their language, Nahuatl, is still spoken by 1.5 million people. 

   This site is a collaboration between ProfessorDonnieLawrence and students of Lupita Mercado at C.E.C.R.V.S. Canoa School in Puebla, Mexico and others at Bonita High School in the U.S.  The purpose of their 'Malinche Team' is to celebrate the Nahuatl language and related cultural artifacts of these original American natives.   They also want to compare and contrast this ancient culture with others around the world. 
   Among other projects, they will be translating original poems between and among Nahuatl, Spanish, and English.

Nahuatl is an Uto-Aztecan language spoken by about 1.5 million people in Mexico. The majority of speakers live in central Mexico, particularly in Puebla, Veracruz, Hildago, San Luis Potosi, Guerrero, Mexico (state), El Distrito Federal, Tlaxcala, Morelos and Oaxaca, and also in El Salvador. There are smaller numbers of Nahuatl speakers throughout the rest of Mexico, and in parts of the USA.

There are numerous dialects of Nahuatl, some of which are mutually unintelligible. Most Nahuatl speakers also speak Spanish, with the exception of some of most elderly.

Classical Nahuatl was the language of the Aztec empire and was used as a lingua franca in much of Mesoamerica from the 7th century AD until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. The modern dialects of Nahuatl spoken in the Valley of Mexico are closest to Classical Nahuatl.

Nahuatl was originally written with a pictographic script which was not a full writing system but instead served as a mnemonic to remind readers of texts they had learnt orally. The script appeared in inscriptions carved in stone and in picture books, many of which the Spanish destroyed.

The Spanish introduced the Latin alphabet to write Nahuatl, and a large amount of prose and poetry was subsequently written. Every since there has been considerable debate about how to spell Nahuatl.

Olmec Civilization 

Nahua Culture was built out of multiple and diverse cultures that already existed but they had their own mythologies that were critical to understanding the world-view that came into conflict with the European ones first in the Caribbean in Cuba and Cozumel; then, in Mexico and South America  


The first signs of complex society in Mesoamerica were the Olmecs an ancient Pre-Columbian civilization living in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in what are roughly the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco. The area is about 125 miles long and 50 miles wide (200 by 80 km), with the Coatzalcoalcos River system running through the middle. These sites include San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Laguna de los Cerros, Tres Zapotes, and La Venta, one of the greatest of the Olmec sites. La Venta is dated to between 1200 BCE through 400 BCE which places the major development of the city in the Middle Formative Period. Located on an island in a coastal swamp overlooking the then-active Río Palma river, the city of La Venta probably controlled a region between the Mezcalapa and Coatzacoalcos rivers.

The Olmec domain extended from the Tuxtlas mountains in the west to the lowlands of the Chontalpa in the east, a region with significant variations in geology and ecology. Over 170 Olmec monuments have been found within the area, and eighty percent of those occur at the three largest Olmec centers, La Venta, Tabasco (38%), San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, Veracruz (30%), and Laguna de los Cerros, Veracruz (12%).

Those three major Olmec centers are spaced from east to west across the domain so that each center could exploit, control, and provide a distinct set of natural resources valuable to the overall Olmec economy. La Venta, the eastern center, is near the rich estuaries of the coast, and also could have provided cacao, rubber, and salt. San Lorenzo, at the center of the Olmec domain, controlled the vast flood plain area of Coatzacoalcos basin and riverline trade routes.

Laguna de los Cerros, adjacent to the Tuxtlas mountains, is positioned near important sources of basalt, a stone needed to manufacture manos, metates, and monuments. Perhaps marriage alliances between Olmec centers helped maintain such an exchange network.

The Olmec heartland is an archaeological term used to describe an area in the Gulf lowlands that is generally considered the birthplace of the Olmec culture. This area is characterized by swampy lowlands punctuated by low hills, ridges, and volcanoes. The Tuxtlas Mountains rise sharply in the north, along the Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche. Here the Olmecs constructed permanent city-temple complexes at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, La Venta, Tres Zapotes, and Laguna de los Cerros. In this region, the first Mesoamerican civilization would emerge and reign from 1400-400 BCE.

The Olmec flourished during Mesoamerica's Formative period, dating roughly from 1400 BCE to about 400 BCE. As the first Mesoamerican civilization, they laid much of the foundation for the civilizations that would follow. Their influence went beyond the heartland - from Chalcatzingo, far to the west in the highlands of Mexico, to Izapa, on the Pacific coast near what is now Guatemala, Olmec goods have been found throughout Mesoamerica during this period.  

Olmec Civilization

The first signs of complex society in Mesoamerica were the Olmecs an ancient Pre-Columbian civilization living in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in what are roughly the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco. 

Aztec Creation Story

Compare this creation story with that of the other North or South American Indians.  Then, compare it with your own belief system.

The mother of the Aztec creation story was called "Coatlique", the Lady of the Skirt of Snakes. She was created in the image of the unknown, decorated with skulls, snakes, and lacerated hands. There are no cracks in her body and she is a perfect monolith (a totality of intensity and self-containment, yet her features were sqaure and decapitated).

Coatlique was first impregnated by an obsidian knife and gave birth to Coyolxanuhqui, goddess of the moon, and to a group of male offspring, who became the stars. Then one day Coatlique found a ball of feathers, which she tucked into her bosom. Whe she looked for it later, it was gone, at which time she realized that she was again pregnant. Her children, the moon and stars did not believe her story. Ashamed of their mother, they resolved to kill her. A goddess could only give birth once, to the original litter of divinity and no more. During the time that they were plotting her demise, Coatlicue gave birth to the fiery god of war, Huitzilopochtli. With the help of a fire serpent, he destroyed his brothers and sister, murdering them in a rage. He beheaded Coyolxauhqui and threw her body into a deep gorge in a mountain, where it lies dismembered forever.

The natural cosmos of the Indians was born of catastrophe. The heavens literally crumbled to pieces. The earth mother fell and was fertilized, while her children were torn apart by fratricide and them scattered and disjointed throughout the universe.

  • Ometecuhlti and his wife Omecihuatl created all life in the world.
  • Their sons:
    • Xipe Totec - The Lord of the Springtime
    • Huitzilopochtli - the Sun god
    • Quetzalcoatl - the Plumed Serpent
    • Tezcatlipoca - the god of Night and Sorcery.
  • Coatlicue - She of the Serpent Skirt.

Nahuatl alphabet (Nāwatla'tōlli)

Nahuatl alphabet (Nāwatla'tōlli)

Nahuatl pronunciation

Nahuatl pronuciation

Information about the Nahuatl alphabet and pronunciation compiled for Wolfram Siegel

Sample text

Nochi tlakamej uan siuamej kipiaj manoj kuali tlakatisej, nochi san se totlatechpouiltilis uan titlatepanitalojkej, yeka moneki kuali ma timouikakaj, ma timoiknelikaj, ma timotlasojtlakaj uan ma timotlepanitakaj.


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. 

Before the nahuatl, the builders of Teotihuacan left this:  "When we die it is not true that we die; for still we live, we are resurrected.  We still live; we awaken.  Do thou likewise"--
Florentine Codex

For comparison, here are some Aztec terms to go with the Maya below
Name of Month                                                                                            Patron Gods
Atlacacauallo (ceasing of water)                                                               Tlaloc, Chachihutlicue
Tlacaxipehualiztli (flaying of men)                                                               Xipe-Totec
Tozoztontli (little vigil)                                                                                   Coztlicue, Tlaloc
Hueytozoztli (great vigil)                                                                               Centeotl, Chicomecacoatl
Toxcatl (dryness)                                                                                          TezcatlipocaHuitzilopochtli
Etzalcualiztli (meal of maize and beans)                                                    Tlaloques
Tecuihuitontli (small feast of the lords)                                                        Huiztocihuatl, Xochipilli
Hueytecuihutli (great feast of the lords)                                                       Xilonen
Tlaxochimaco (birth of flowers)                                                                     Huizilopochtli
Xocotlhuetzin (fall of fruit)                                                                              Xiuhtecuhtli
Hueymiccahuitl (great feast of the dead)                                                     Xiuhtecuhtli
Ochpaniztli (sweeping of the roads)                                                             Tlazolteotl
Teoleco (return of the gods)                                                                          Tezcatlipoca
Tepeihuitl (feast of the hills)                                                                           Tlaloc
Quecholli (precious feather)                                                                           Mixcoatl-Camaxtli
Panquetzaliztli (raising of the banner)                                                           Huitzilopochtli
Atemoztli (water decends)                                                                             Tlaloc
Tititl (stretching)                                                                                               Llamatecuhtli
Izcalli (resuscitation)                                                                                       Xiuhtecuhtli
Nemontemi (empty days)                                                                    5 unlucky days, no rituals, general fasts 
capulli (clan)
calpultin (clans)                                                                                                                       

Pipiltin* (sons of Lords)  The root of this is Pipil, the name for a group that migrated northward from South America and found in Pacific pockets of Central America (with maize, the potato, unique language, and art, could this be an example of South American amerindians coming in contact with those moving southward out of central Mexico?

And More Mayan:

Mayan Day Names w/ meanings
Imix                                      waterlily
Ik'                                         wind
Ak'bal                                  night
K'an                                     maize
Chikchan                            snake
Kimi                                    death head
Manik'                                 hand
Lamat                                 Venus
Muluk                                  water
Ok                                       dog
chuwen                                frog
Eb                                       skull
Ben                                     corn stalk
Ix                                         jaguar
Men                                    eagle
Kib                                      shell
Kaban                                 earth
Etz'nab                               flint
Kawak                                storm cloud
Ahaw                                  Lord
Mayan Month Names w/ some meanings
Pohp                                  mat
Wo                                       ?
Sip                                        ?
Sotz'                                   bat
Sek                                      ?
Xul                                      dog
Yaxk'in                               new sun
Mol                                     water
Ch'en                                 black
Yax                                    green
zak                                     white
Keh                                    red
Mak                                    ?
K'ank'in                               ?
Muwan                               owl
Pax                                    ?
K'ayab                               turtle
Kumk'u                              ?

Nahuatl-English online vocabulary and comparative linguistics  

Nahuatl-English Basic Dictionary

-co. at, in the place of
-pan. on, on top of 
-tica. with, using, through.
-tlan. among, between.
aca. somebody, someone
acattopa. first, in the first place 
achi miecpa. frequently 
achto. first 
achtontli. Great-grandfather, ancestor. 
achtopa. firstly, in the first place
aci. to arrive 
acicamati. To understand 
acicamatl. To understand 
ahuitl. Aunt 
aic. Never
altepepan. At the city 
altepetl. City, town, population
amantecatl. Artisan, 
amatl. Paper, codex (book)
amazolli. Old paper (tradition)
amehuan, amehuantin. You, plural reverential: amehuantzitzin. (pronoun)
ameyalli. Fountain, source.
amini. Hunter
amiqui. Thirsty (adj), to be thirsty.
amo. No
amo cualli. Bad, wrong.
amo ... zan. Not ... but.
amotlein. Nothing 
amoxcalli. Library, also book shelf 
amoxtli. Book
an-. You, plural (prefx).
ana. To take, to grab.
aocmo. Not any more.
aocmo huecauh. In a moment, just a moment.
apizmiqui. Famine, to be dying of hunger.
aquimamatcayoti. Stuborness
aquin. Who (?) plural: aquique.
atenemachpan. Suddenly 
atl. Water. reverential: atzintli. 
atiacuihuayan. Artesian well.
atli. To drink water.
atolli. Atole, drink made of corn.
atonahui. Fever, to have f.
auh. And, but.
axihuayan. Hotel, lodging, sometimes refuge.
axiltia (nite-). To accompany.
axiltia (nitia-). To complete, to fulfill.
axitia. To get close, to come closer. 
axixcalli. Restroom (sanitary)
axixmiqui. To have the need to go to the restroom.
ayamo. Not yet.
ayaxcanyotica. Slowly.
ayohui. Easyly, easy. 
ayotl. Turtle, tortoise.
azcatl. Ant.
azo zan. perhaps (?), maybe (?).

cíhuatl. Woman, female. plural: cihuah. 
ca. To be. Because. plural: cate.
ca ye cualli. All right, OK.
cahua. To leave (release an object)
cahuitl. Time.
calacoayan. Door (THE door).
calaqui. To come in, to get inside.
calli. House. Also used as generic buildings.
calmanani. Architect. 
calpolli. Tribe.
caltentli. Door.
camachaloa. To open one's mouth.
camactli. Mouth.
camanallahtoa. To joke.
camapaca. To wash one's mouth.
camapotoniliztli. Bad breath.
camatl. Mouth.
campa. Where (?).
can. Where (?), plural: canin.  
caqui. To hear.
catca. Was, were.
caxtiltecatl. Spaniard.
caxtolli omei. Eighteen.
caxtolli once. Sixteen.
ce. One.
ce. One of  (when followed by a pronown).
cecemilhuitica. Daily, Every day.
cemanahuatl. World, universe (figurative).
cemiac. Always, for ever.
cempanahuia. To exceed, to surpass, to outdo.
cempoalli. Twenty. 
cenca. Very. 
cenca cualli. Very well 
cenquizca. Perfectly, completely
cenyohual. All night
chantli. House. (home).
chia. To wait. past: ochix.
chicahuac. Healthy, strong, tough, hard. plural: chicahuaque.
chicnahui. Nine
chicoace. Six.
chicome. Seven.
chicuey. Eight.
chihua. To do. 
chihuilia. To do (to someone).
chipahua. To clean.
chiquihuitl. Basquet.
choca. To cry, weep. plural: chocah.
chocolatl. chocolate.
choloa. To flee, to run away.
choquilia. To cry, weep. 
choquilitzatzi. To cry, bawl.
choquiltia. To make someone cry.
ciciammicqui. Tired, fatigued.
cihtli. Grandmother. Hare. plural: cicihtin.
cihuapillahtocatzintli. Queen.
cihuapilli. Lady, princess.
citialin. Star.
ciyahui. To get tired.
coatl. Snake. plural: cocoah.
cochcahua. To let sleep
cochcayotl. Dinner
cochehua (nite-). To awake, awaken.
cochi. To sleep. plural: cochih.
cochiantli. Dormitory.
cochihuayan. Bedroom.
cochitlehua. To dream. "Seeing in your sleep".
cochitta. To dream. "Seeing in your dream". Visions (mystic).
cochmiqui. Sleepy, to be sleepy, drowsy.
cocoa. To hurt (suffer pain).
cococ. Hot, spicy.
cocotona. To dismember, destroy, demolish.
cocoxcacalli. Hospital.
cocoxcacalpan. At the hospital. 
cocoxqui. Sick, diseased. 
cohua. To buy, purchase.
colli. Grandfather. plural: coltin.
coloti. Scorpion.
comalli. Flat pan (for cooking)
comitl. Cooking pot. 
conetl. Child, kid. pl:ural coconeh.
coni. To drink.
copina. To extract. (to get one thing out from another)
cotona. To cut.
cua. To eat.
cuacuahuitl. Horn, antler.
cuahuitl. Tree, log.
cuaitl. head. (used only in comosite words).
cualli. Good (adverb).
cualli ic. Good (adjective).
cuallotl. Goodness.
cuauhmaitl. Branch.
cuauhmayoh. That has branches.
cuauhtla. Woods, forest.
cueitl. Skirt.
cueponi. To grow.
cueyatl. Frog.
cuica. To sing.
cuicani. Singer.
cuicatl. Song.
cuico. Singing.
cuicoa. Singing.
cuicuizcati. Swallow (bird).
cuix. Maybe, could it be...
cuix ye huecanh. Has it been long since… (?).

eiehuia. To wish. To desire.
etl. Beans.

hualhuica. To bring, fetch.
huallauh. To come. past: ohualia.
hualmonochilia. To call (ask someone to come).
hualquiztia. To go out. Future.
hualtepotztoca. To follow (someone).
hueca. Far, distant.
huecauhtica. For a while, for some time (short).
huehca. Far.
huehue. Old. plural: huehuetque.
huehuetlahtolli. Old word. Cultural legacy, tradition, culture.
hueitlamahuizoltica. Wonderfully
huel. Right, well. Is used as 'can' with another verb in future tense. 
huelic. Tasty, good.
hueltiuhtli. Sister.
huetzca. To laugh.
huetzi. To fall down.
huexolotl. Turkey.
huica. To take (something-someone to another place).
huilotl. Pigeon.
huiptla. The day after tomorrow.
huitzitzilin. Hummingbird.

i. To drink
ic. That's why, because.
ica. With.
ica paquiliztli. Gladly.
icalixpan. In front of someone's home
ichantzinco. In someone's home, to someone's home. 
ichcatl. Lamb.
ichpochtli. Young woman. plural: ichpopochtin.
iciuhca. Quickly, Fast.
icniuhtli. Brother, friend.
icnotl. Poor.
icpalli. Chair, stool.
icuac. When. While.
icuitlapan. Behind.
icxitl. Foot.
ihcuiloa. To write.
ihcuilotic. It is written that
ihtoa. To talk, to say.
ihuan. And.
ihuicpa. From.
ilhuia. To tell.
ilhuicatl. Sky, heaven. ilhuicac.- At the sky, at heaven. 
imacaci. To fear, to be afraid.
in aquin. The one who - .
in canin. Where. At.
in ihuicpa. From
in oquic. While.
in oyuh. Once that - , as soon as - 
in quenin. How.
in tiein. The one that, the one which.
in xochtl in cuicatl. Poetry, poem.
in yuh. Like, as.
inech  monequi. It's necessary.
inin. This.
iniquein. These.
iniqueon. Those.
inon. That. 
intia. If.
intzalan. Between.
ipan. On, on top of.
itech calli. Inside the house.
ititl. Belly.
itqui. To take, to carry. 
itquin. When (?). 
itta. To see.
itzcuintli. Dog. plural: itzcuintin.
ixcueloa. To nod (say yes wuth the head).
ixmati. To know. past: oquixmat.
ixquich. Every, everything, all.
ixtelolotl. Eye.
izcatqui. Here is -, this is it.
iztac. White.
iztitl. Finger nail.
ma. To hunt.
ma xipatinemi. May you be well, farewell.
maca. To give.
macamo. Negation. macamo xitequipacho = do not worry.
macehualli. Commoner, not of the nobility.
machiotil Signal. reverential: machiotzintli.
machtia. To teach, to show.
macuilli. Five.
macuilli ic. Fifth.
maitl. Hand.
maiahua. To slip.
maquixtia. To save, to release, to set free.
mati. To know.
matlactli. Ten.
mauhcatlayecoani. Coward.
maxitia. To come closer, to get closer. (from moaxitia).
mayana. Hunger, to be hungry.
mazatl. Deer. plural: mamazah.
mehua. To get up, to stand up.
melahuac. Straight.
metlatl. Grinding stones.
metzli. Herb.
meztli Moon. Month.
mexicatl. Mexican.
michin. Fish.
mictia. To kill.
mihtoa. It is said that.
millacatl. Farmer, country laborer.
miqui. To die.
mitz-. - you, to you.
miztli. Puma, cougar.
mizton. Cat.
mocactia. To put shoes on.
mocahuilia. To leave (something)
mocehuia. To rest.
mocentlalia, To gather, reunite.
mochantia. To reside, to live at.
mochi. Everything, all. plural: mochintin.
mochihua. To happen (an event).
mochihua. To become, to turn into.
mochipa. Always.
mocochcayotia. To dine, have dinner.
mococoa. To be sick.
mocuepa. To transform oneself, to turn into.
mohuelmati. To feel good.
molcaxitl. Grinding stone (for salsa).
momaquilia. To give.
momaquixtilia. To free, to liberate.
momatequia. To wash one's hands.
momauhtia. To be frightened.
momayahui. To throw oneself.
momotzoa. To rub, massage.
momoztlae. Daily, every day. 
monamictia. To marry.
monequiltia. To love.
mopopolhuilia. To forgive.
moquetza. To stand up.
motenehua. One's name, to be called (used as a verb). 
motlalia. Sit on, to be placed at
motlaquentia. To get dressed.
motlatoa. To run.
moyetztica. To be. Plural, reverential: moyetzicate.
moztla. Tomorrow 
nacatl. Meat.
nacayotl. Body.
nacaztli. Ear.
nahualli. Warlock, witch.
nahuatia. To command, to order.
nahuatlahtolli. Nahuatl language.
nahuatlatoltica. In nahuatl language.
nahui. Four.
nalquiza. To pass, pass by.
namaca. To sell.
namictli. Husband, wife.
nanquilia. To answer, to respond.
nantli. Mother. plural: nantin. Reverential: nantzintli.
ne, nehua, nehuatl. I, me.
nech-. To me.
neci. To appear (materialize).
nehnemi. To walk.
nelhuayotl. Root, base, foundation.
nemachtiloyan. School.
nemi. To live.
nenepilli. Tongue.
nequi. To want.
ni-. I, me (as a prefix).
nican. Here.
niltze. Hello (!).
niman. Later, afterwards.
nimanic. Right away, now.
nimitzittaz. I'll see you.
nixtamalli. Corn paste for tortillas or tamales. 
no. Also.
nocenyeliz. My family.
nochtli. Cactus (nopal).
nohuan. With me.
nohuican. Also, too.
noihuan. Also, too.
notza. To call someone, to talk with someone.
notzontecon. My head.
noyuhqui. Also, too.
nozo. Or, either.

oc. Still, yet.
oc achi. More. A little more.
oc cequi. Another. plural: oc cequin.
oc yohuatzinco. Very early, at dawn.
occe. Another.
occe tlamantli. Something else, one more thing.
occepa. Again.
occequi. Another. plural: occequintin.
ocelotl. Jaguar.
ocnamacoyan. Bar, liquor store.
ocuilin. Worm, maggot.
ohtli. Road, way, trail.
ohualla. Came.
ome. Two.
ompa. There.
oni. To drink.
onimitzittac. I saw you.
onimitzittacca. I had seen you.
opoch. Left (side).
oquichtli. Male. plural: oquichtin.
otiacicoh. We have arrived.
oztotl. Cave.
oztoc: In the cave.

paca. To wash.
pactia. To please, to give pleasure.
pahcalli. Drugstore.
pahpiani. Pharmaceutic (profession).
pahti. To cure
pahtia. To cure
pahtli. Medicine.
palehuia. To help.
paltic. Wet.
panoltia. To invite someone in.
papaca. To wash.
papalotl. Butterfly.
papatlaca. To tremble, to shiver, to shake.
paqui. To be happy.
patlani. To fly.
patzca. To squeeze, to juice.
pehua (ni-). To start, to begin.
pehua (nic-). To win, to triunph.
petlatl. Bed.
pilli. Son.
pilli. Noble, prince.
piltzintli. Son. (Reverential)
pitzahuac. Thin,. plural: pitzahuaque.
pitzotl. Pig.
pochtecatl. Merchant, salesperson.
poctli. Smoke.
pohua. To count, to read.
popoca. To smoke.
potoni. To stink, to smell bad.

quema. Yes.
quenin. How (?)
quenin otimohuicac? How did it go ?.
quezqui. How much? How many?
quilmach. It is said, they say.
quimichin. Mouse.
quin axcan. Recently, a short while ago.
quin tepan. Later, afterwards.
quiyahui. To rain.
quiyahuitl. Rain.
quiza. To go out.
quizaliztli. Migration, departure.

tahtli. Father. plural: tahtin. reverential: tahtzintli.
tamalli. tamal.
te, tehua, tehuatl. You. reverential: tehuatzin.
tech-. We, to us.
teci. To grind.
tecolotl. Owl.
tecuani. Wild beast.
tecuhtli. Lord. plural, reverential : tecuhtzintli.
tehuan, tehuantin. We, us.
Teica ?. Why ?.
tel. But.
telpochcalli. College, university.
telpochtli. Boy, young man. plural: telpopochtin.
temachtiani. Teacher, tutor. plural: temachtianimeh, reverential: temachticatzintli.
temamauhti. Horrible, terrifying, scary. plural: temamauhtique.
temazcalli. Steam bath.
temo. To descend, to go down.
temoa. To look for.
teneyeyecoitiliztli. Temptation.
teniza. To breakfast.
tennamiqui. To kiss.
tentli. Lip. Edge, border.
tentzontli. Moustache, whiskers.
teocalli. Temple.
teocuitlatl. Gold (literally, wonderful waste).
teopixqui. Priest. plural: teopixque.
teotl. Wonderful, awesome. Terrifying. To some scholars, God. 
teotlac. Afternoon, during the afternoon.
tepahtiani. Doctor, medic, healer.
tepec. Hill.
tepehuani. Conquistador.
tepepan. At the hill, in the wilderness.
tepetl. Mountain, volcano.
tequipachoa. To worry.
tequipanoa. To work, to labor.
tetl. Stone, rock.
texocotl. Tejocote (small winter fruit).
texocotzopelloti. Tejocote jam, preserved tejocotes.
ti-. You (singular). Us (subject prefix). 
ticitl. Doctor, medic, healer.
titlani. To send.
tlaca. Afternoon. Late.
tlacachihua. To procreate, to have children.
tlacamati. To obey.
tlacamatli. Obeyance.
tlacatecolotl. Devil.  Literally "Afternoon Owl", "Owl man". 
tlacatilia. To get pregnant, conception.
tlacatl. Person. plural: tlacah. Reverential: tlacatzintli.
tlachia. To look, to see.
tlachpana. To sweep, To broom.
tlacua. To eat, to feed.
tlacualchihualoyan. Kitchen.
tlacualli. Food.
tlacualoyan. Diner, dining room.
tlacualtia. To feed, to give food.
tlahtlacolli. Offense.
tlahtli. Uncle.
tlahtoa. To talk, to speak.
tlahtoani. King. plural: tlahtoanime.
tlahtocayotl. Kingdom, state, nation.
tlahtolli. Language, tongue, Word, speech.
tlahtoque. Nobles, princes.
tlahuilli. Light.
tlalia. To put.
tlalticpac. At or on the earth.
tlamachtilli. Pupil. plural: tlamachtiltin.
tlamaneloa. To swim.
tlamatini. Wise person, wisdom. plural: tlamatinime.
tlami. To finish. past: otlan.
tlaneci. Dawn.
tlanequiliztli. Will, willpower.
tlantli. Tooth.
tlaocoya. Sad, to be sad.
tlaolli. Corn.
tlapaloa. To greet.
tlapalotiuh. To go to greet someone.
tlapoa. To open.
tlapopolhuia. To forgive.
tlaquemitl. Clothes.
tlathui. Dawn.
tlatla. To burn.
tlatlacalhuia. To offense, to insult.
tlatlani. To ask (a question).
tlatlatilcuahuitl. Firewood.
tlatquitl. Patrimony.
tlatzacuillotl. Door (THE door).
tlatzomia. To meow.
tlaxcalchihua. To make tortillas.
tlaxcalli. Tortillas, bread.
tlaxcalmana. To make bread.
tlaza. To bring down, to knock down.
tlazocamati. Thanks, Thank you.
tlazohtla. To love.
tlazolli. Garbage, waste.
tle inic amo. Why not ?.
tle ipampa. Why ?.
tleca. Why ?.
tleco. To climb, to go up.
tlecuil. Stove.
tlecuilco. On the stove.
tlecuilli. Stove, cooking fire.
tlen. What.
tletl. Fire.
toca. To sow.
toca. To bury.
tocaitl. Name. reverential: tocatzintli.
tocatl. Spider.
tochtli. Rabbit.
toltecatl. Wise one, Science man, Knowledgeable.
tonalli. Day.
tonehua. To hurt, to suffer pain.
totechmonequi, totech monequi. We need.
totolayotl. Chicken soup.
totolin. Turkey.
tototl. Bird.
tozquitl. Throat.
tzatzi. To scream, to shout.
tzontecomatl. Head.
tzontli. Hair.
tzopelic. Sweet.

xayacatl. Face.
xihuitl. Herb. Leaf. Year.
xinachtli. Seed.
xiquipiltontli. Bag.
xitomatl. Tomato.
xocoyotzin. The smallest, the youngest.
xonacatl. Onion.
xoncalaqui. Get in (!). 
xoxoctic. Green.

yacatl. Nose.
yancuic. New.
yauh. To go.
ye. Ready, done.
ye tlaca. It's late.
ye, yehua, yehuatl. He, she, it. reverential: yehuatzin.
yec. Right (side).
yeccaqui. To understand, to comprehend.
yeceh. Though, nontheless.
yectenehua. To bless, to sanctify.
yectli. Good, beautiful, pretty, nice. plural: yeyectin.
yehuan, yehuantin. They. reverential: yehuantzitzin.
yei. Three.
yetiayohuac. It's night, It's late.
yohuac. Night.
yohualtica. At night.
yolcatl. Insect.
yoli. To live.
yollotl. Heart.
yolpaqui. To be happy.
yuhquin. Like this, this way.

zan niman. Right away, immediately.
zan tepitzin. Just a little. exp
zatepan. later. adj 
zatlatzonco. lastly, finally. con 
zayolin. fly (the insect). sus 
zazanilli. story, tale. sus 
zolin. codorniz. sus 
zoquipan. in the mud. exp 
zoquitl. mud. sus
zoquiyo. muddy. exp

                                                                                                                                                    Aztec calendar


                                                      Sample page from the Nahuatl Codex of 1543                                     

Samples of Modern Nahua Art

Song in Nahuatl, with traditional images:

Traditional  song in both Nahuatl and Spanish:

Cultural Anthropology and Mexican Ethnography

Christina Warriner adds a critical dimension of nahua myth and dance with the following powerpoint

 Culture Clash.pdf

This is part of a larger curriculum that Christina teaches at Harvard University

Cultural Anthropology and Ethnography 
Link to Sagahun, one of Mexico's earliest Amerindian ethnographers 


Interdisciplinary Studies

Project 3 – Component B

Lynnette Young

  1. Bernardino de Sahagún –


  1. Bernardin de Sahagún was born in Spain in 1499.  A Franciscan missionary, he sailed from his home of Sahagún, Spain to what is now Mexico (never to return to his homeland), eight years after the conquest.  He is alternately considered to be “the father of modern anthropology” or a missionary whose primary motive was to eradicate Nahua (Aztec) culture.  This story is real and demonstrates the documentation of native customs and practices in the form of a codex.  Sahagún’s codices are famous and provide dramatic insight into the Aztec culture.

III.  My Story: 

   The year is 1536.  I am 30 years old, living in Imperial Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco.  I am a missionary and a teacher.  It is eight years after the Conquest, and I am amazed at the intelligence of the natives.  I have much to learn about the Nahuatl.  I have befriended a number of young men of native nobility.  I have recruited them and am training them to be my assistants.  I call them “tri-linguals” as they have command of at least three languages – Latin, Spanish, and Nahuatl. 


   The tri-lingual’s have helped me to produce a collection of Christian hymns written in Nahuatl.  I have also recorded the history, culture, and religion of the Tetzcocan people.  I call it Primeros Memoriales, a study of the history, culture, and religion of the Tetzcocan people.  I include it in a dialog between the first 12 missionaries to New Spain and testimonials from the Nahuatl about the Conquest. 


   I am older now.  I have succeeded in converting many Nahuatl to Christianity.  And I have created the Florentine CodexHistoria General de las Cosas de Nueva Espana (General History of the Things of New Spain. It is 1590, and I know I will never return to my homeland.  I leave this Codex as a memorial to the Nahuatl who became my breathren as I am handed over to God

Students at Union College would like to present nahuatl songs from their first English translations by Victor Wolfgang von Hagen of Angel Maria Garibay's nahuatl songs.  One is of the universe, life and afterlife:

Is it true that one lives only on Earth?
Not forever on Earth:  only a short while here
Even jade will crack
Even gold will break
Even Quetzal feathers will rend,
Not forever on Earth:  only a short while here

Poeticism and love of flowers and nature is expressed in a moody tone of near-anger

My heart wishes with longing for flowers, 
I suffer with the song, and only rehearse songs on earth,
I, Cuacuauhtzin:  I want flowers that will endure in my hands...
Where shall I gather beautiful flowers, beautiful songs:
Never does spring produce them here:
I, alone, torment myself, I, Cuacuauhtzin,
Can you rejoice perchance, may our friends have pleasure:
Where shall I gather beautiful flowers, beautiful songs?

My students at Union College have asked me to ask Lupita if the students at Bonita High School have fun with attempting their best translations in nahuatl and/or Spanish, would the students at Canoa in Puebla help edit them in both languages so that they may be set to music.  Que piensas tu, Lupita?  Different metre and rhythm could be appreciated for a cross-cultural musical and educational set of variants based on both material and non-material cultural elements.  Students Brittany Asher, Brooke Bowlin, Natasha Wyrick, John Simpson, Lisa Frith, Gabriela Frith, Kristin Hinkle and Krista Brooke Smith would like to know if this is a worthy aesthetic and cultural exercise.  I believe there would be even greater potential for studying and appreciating other cultural artifacts, beliefs, music and patterns too.

For one more dimension of musical heritage as social intelligence, the above students found the following song which i could not translate fully in my broken nahuatl.  We would like to know the meaning of the verses:

Ah tlamiz noxochiuh ah tlamiz nocuie
In noconehua
Xexelihui la moyahua 

Respectfully submitted as a multicultural, multilingual and musical exercise in cross-cultural understanding and comparative education--students at Union College in Kentucky

Krista, Kristen, Brittany, Brooke, Natasha, Lisa and Gabriella like this:

The Native Peoples of North America [Two Volumes]

Bruce E. Johansen ( 2005 )


·         Images

·         Citation

Mexico and Mesoamerica

Beginnings to European Contact

In presentday Mexico and Central America          (Mesoamerica, Greek for Middle America), complex civilizations began to organize at about the time that the Roman Empire was expanding across Europe, northern Africa, and Palestine. These civilizations evolved over the centuries in different locations around two centers. One was the highlands of presentday Guatemala into the scrublands of Yucatan, where the Maya flourished. In and around the Valley of Mexico, the second center, a series of citystates had been rising and falling for more than 1,500 years when, in 1519, Cortes met the Aztecs, the last, largest, and grandest civilization of them all.

Both of these centers also formed the nucleus of an agricultural, mercantile, and administrative network, with commercial influence often radiating several hundred miles from the center through a thickly populated agricultural hinterland. The rise of each center was brought about by a welldefined elite purportedly acting under the sponsorship and direction of a pantheon of gods. As archaeologists learn more about the cultures that preceded the Aztecs, a pattern seems to be emerging: More than once, the elites of one center may have escaped popular unrest by moving to other areas and starting the cycle over again. Thus, a similar (but in some ways more technologically advanced) civilization rose in another area as the old city was reclaimed by nature.

Urban Beginnings in Mesoamerica

The Mesoamerican elite tradition probably began with the Olmecs, who constructed towns as centers of politically integrated societies and containing temples, elite residences, stone sculptures, and elaborate tombs. The Olmec civilization, which preceded the Mayan as well as the chain of civilizations that led to the Aztecs in the Valley of Mexico, started organizing complex societies based on the rich wild food resources of the southern Gulf Coast of presentday Mexico shortly after 1500 b.c.e. In the art, rituals, and other lifeways of the Olmecs, one sees the later Mayan, Toltec, and Aztec traditions emerging.

By 1400 b.c.e., the first large Olmec settlement had risen at a site today called San Lorenzo, southwest of the Tuxtla Mountains near Mexico's southern Gulf Coast. The settlement contained large public buildings and stone monuments. Evidence, including the probable number of residential sites, indicates that San Lorenzo was a small city in terms of population but a very large one in terms of economic, political, and religious power across a sizable hinterland (M. D. Coe, 1968).

The elite of San Lorenzo supervised projects involving earth moving of monumental scope, in the hundreds of millions of cubic feet. Thousand of tons of basalt used in construct monuments were quarried in the Tuxtla Mountains. The site also has yielded imported obsidian, mica, and other materials from many hundreds of miles away that were used for jewelry, ritual objects, and other prized possessions. The Olmecs of San Lorenzo also probably imported other items, such as foodstuffs, that left little archaeological evidence. Judging from the number of implements recovered for grinding corn, it was probably the staple food of the common people at San Lorenzo; the people also likely ate turtles and fish; the elite occasionally dined on young puppies raised especially for that purpose.

The Olmecs did not use metal tools, but they did fashion iron ore into shining disks that the elite wore as ornaments. About 1000 B.c.e., San Lorenzo was surpassed in size by another Olmec settlement, La Venta, east of San Lorenzo, near the Gulf Coast. Although La Venta's public and ceremonial areas were larger, its culture was similar to that of San Lorenzo. La Venta reached its peak between 1000 and 750 b.c.e. Other Olmec sites have been identified but, as of this writing, not widely excavated.

The Olmecs did not occupy Mesoamerica alone; other peoples also were establishing organized societies with agricultural bases at about the same time. In the Valley of Oaxaca, for example, a dozen settlements began between 1300 and 1600 B.c.e. Later, at about 750 B.c.e., as La Venta declined, the Oaxacan capitol of Monte Alban included a civic center with large pyramids and surrounded by rich agricultural land. Olmec sculptures also may contain the earliest hints of hieroglyphic writing of a form that later was adopted by the Mayas and Aztecs.

As the Olmecs’ civilization declined after 600 B.c.e., other groups rose and fell at other sites, each enjoying brief authority over an agricultural hinterland. Each in turn organized its society under a religious and military elite, with social classes, rituals, and art forms that continued the tradition that began with the Olmecs and ended with the Aztecs.

More than a century before the birth of Christ, the first true sizable urban areas in North America arose in the Valley of Mexico, at Teotihuacan, northeast of the vast lake on which the Aztecs would later build Tenochtitlan (which translates to place of the pricklypear cactus). Another urban area arose at Cuicuilco, in the southwestern part of the Valley of Mexico, near the Mexico National University's presentday campus, on the southern side of Mexico City. Cuicuilco probably was the larger city in the beginning, before a volcanic eruption and lava flow ruined its site (and hinterland) and sent much of its population to Teotihuacan, which swelled in size from 20,000 to 30,000 people by about 100 c.e. to as many as 200,000 by 700 c.e. (Maxwell, 1978, 52).

With an estimated population of 200,000, Teotihuacan (meaning place of the gods in Nahuatl, the Aztec language) was one of the largest—if not the largest—urban areas on earth at that time, nearly equal in population to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan 700 years later. Cities such as London and Paris did not reach that size until after Europe's Age of Exploration began. Teotihuacan covered twenty square kilometers (or eight square miles) and was thick with ceremonial buildings and more than 2,000 large apartment blocks, some of which functioned as workplaces as well as homes. Some of them specialized in the manufacture of obsidian blades; others manufactured pottery. About 150 ceramic shops have been identified in Teotihuacan, which produced sturdy cooking ware for common people as well as intricately designed vessels for the welltodo. In other shops, artisans fashioned the elaborate feathered costumes worn by the elite during ceremonial occasions. Artisans carved hundreds of large monuments from basalt blocks, ranging in size up to 40 tons each; these portrayed secular and supernatural rulers and events.

Archaeological evidence indicates welldeveloped societies with military and religious elites supported by intensive agriculture in an area that was probably much more lush than the capital city of Mexico appears today. During the last 500 years, vegetation has been stripped by overgrazing sheep imported from Europe. In the twentieth century, urban air pollution also has stunted the growth of vegetation in the Valley of Mexico.

This is an outstanding website Mrs Jones and her students have created to add multicultural, cross-cultural and comparative understandings in global and historical contexts.  The excerpt on nahuatl and maya histories above may be found here in its entirety.  Muchas gracias, Mrs Jones.

Nahuatl Place Name & Glyphs 

Some Nahuatl Placenames

Oaxaca (Uaxacac)
This glyph represents Oaxaca (name of a state in Mexico) whose real name in Nahuatl was Uaxacac which means "Place where the "guaje" vegetables begin. Uax(in) is the word for "guaje" a type of vegetable and yáca(tl) means nose, extension, point, or beginning. The -c at the end is a location suffix which denotes a place name.
Toluca (Tollocan)
This glyph represents Toluca (capital of the state of Mexico) whose real Nahuatl name was Tollocan which means "Where the head is bowed down." Tol(oa) means to bow the head and means nose, extension, point, or beginning. This name required a suffix variant -lo used in name that ends in the letter L. The -can at the end is a location suffix which denotes a place name. This suffix is used after suffixes that end in -yo or -lo.
Tlaxcala (Tlaxcallan)
This glyph represents Tlaxcala (a state capital city and a state in Mexico) whose real Nahuatl name was Tlaxcallan which means "Where there is an abundance of tortillas." Tlaxcal(li) means tortilla and it can also mean food. -lan is location suffix (variant of -tlan) and denotes an abundance of.
This glyph represents Tenochtitlan (what is now Mexico City) which means "Where cactus grows from the rocks." Tetl means rock and Nochitli means nopal or cactus. -lan is location suffix (variant of -tlan) and denotes an abundance of.

Certain suffixes are very common in placenames of Mexican Native or of Nahuatl origin. Some of them are: -tlan (place near an abundance of...), -co or -c (place), -tepe-c (hill-place), -yan (place), -pa(n) (on), and -can (place). A few examples follow, with the stems of the Nahuatl words and their English meanings.

-TLAN (place near an abundance of ...)

    Placename        Stem             English Gloss           
    Acatlan          acatl            reed                                    
    Acaxochitlan     acatl-xochitl    reed-flower                             
    Ajuchitlan       atl-xochitl      water-flower                            
    Camotlan         camotli          sweet potato                            
    Cihuatlan        cihuatl          woman                                   
    Coatlan          coatl            snake                                   
    Colotlan         colotl           scorpion                                
    Epatlan          epatl            skunk                                   
    Huehuetlan       huehue (teotl)   old (god)                               
    Mazatlan         mazatl           deer                                    
    Ocotlan          ocotl            pine tree                               
    Tecolotlan       tecolotl         owl                                     
    Teocuitlatlan    teotl-cuitlatl   god-excrement                           
    Tepoztlan        tepoztli         iron or metal                           
    Tototlan         tototl           bird    

-CO or -C (place)

    Placename        Stem             English Gloss                         
    Acapulco         acatl-pol        reed-thick                              
    Atotonilco       atl-totonil      water-heated                            
    Jalisco          xalli-ixtli      sand-face                               
    Mexico           metl-xictli      maguey cactus-navel                     
    Teotlalco        teotl-tlalli     god-earth                               
    Zacualco         tzacual          closed       

-TEPE-C (hill-place)

    Placename        Stem             English Gloss                         

    Acaltepec        atl-calli        water-house (canoe)                     
    Coatepec         coatl            snake                                   
    Chapultepec      chapulin         grasshopper                             
    Ecatepec         ecatl            wind                                    
    Jocotepec        xocotl           sour, fruit                             
    Ocotepec         ocotl            pine tree                               
     In the following  examples, if  the suffixes  are given  in the     
short list above, they are not repeated.  Otherwise, all elements of     
the placenames are enumerated.                                           
    Placename        Analysis         English Gloss                    
    Acapulco         acatl-pol-co     reed-thick                         
    Cuernavaca       cuahuitl-nahuac  tree-near                          
    Hueyapan         huei-atl         big-water                          
    Iztaccihuatl     iztac-cihuatl    white-woman                        
    Michoacan        michin-hua-can   fish-haver-place
    Popocatepetl     popoca-tepetl    smoke-hill                         
    Tuxpan           tochtli          rabbit                             
    Xochimilco       xochitl-milli    flower-field 

Nahuatl Literature & Poetry

Nahua Literature

An attempt against etymology is to talk about an Aztec literature. Great efforts had the prehispanic cultures made to engrave their thoughts either on rock or on paper. We have not be able, though, to discipher their written language. Symbolic ideograms, some very styled and phonetic similar to the Chinese and Japanese Languages, served as a vehicle for their literature.

A very abundant poetic production of popular eloquence existed, treasured in the memory and transmitted from generation to generation. Codes for a moral life and social conduct, codes that parents taught to their children by rule and that at the same time they enclose high precepts as well as beautiful expressions. Sahagún, Motolínea, Ixtlilxochitl, the angry pen of father Durán, and in general all the chroniclers, agree in affirming it.

Collective chanting, almost always accompanied by dancing, or the songs of a poet in a contest, all this generally in the higher classes of society, were institutions so characteristic of those towns as are our books, theaters, and social gatherings. The most important, naturally, was the worship, collective or individual of their divinities.

This abundant production perished in its most part. Nothing else could have happened. The shaking of the conquest discouraged the happiness of the people and displaced their ways of social life. And the missionaries were not as careful in gathering this type of information as they were with the historical information. For some time it remained in the memories and lips of the survivors of the tribes disaster; but little by little for various reasons it kept dying. Just a few persons were left as a remainder of that past, and whose knowledge is of great importance for the study of the national soul in a field so intimate as is poetry.

Some missionaries had the Indians dictate to them, or as it happened with Sahagún, the Indians themselves wrote, under the missionaries' supervision, these kind of chants. In this way the their literature was saved otherwise it would have perished forever.

excerpts from Angel María Garibay K.

The following are fragments from different Nahuatl poems What was it that your mind perhaps was finding?
Where was your heart?
That is why you give your heart to every thing;
without direction you take it; you go about destroying your heart.
On the earth, can you go in search of something?
Can it be lived on the Earth?
Not for always on earth: just a little here.
Even though it be jade it breaks,
even though it be gold it breaks,
even though it be quetzal feathering it rips,
not for always on earth: just a little here.
Do we speak something truthful here, Giver of life?
We only dream, we only get up from the dream.
It is only like a dream...
Nobody speaks the truth here...
Are the men truth?
For so our chant is not truth anymore.
What is by luck standing?
What is to come out well?
Do we really speak here, Giver of life...?
Even if emeralds, if fine ointments,
we give to the Giver of Life,
if with collars you are invoked, with the strength of the eagle,
of the tiger,
it could be that nobody says the truth on the earth.
Ayocuan and Cuetzpal speak like this,
that truly know the Giver of Life...
I hear his word there, certainly his,
the rattle bird answers to the Giver of Life.
Go chanting, offer flowers, offer flowers.
Like emeralds and quetzal feathers, are his words raining.
Over there maybe the Giver of Life satisfies himself?
Is this the only truthful thing on the earth?
We only come to sleep,
we only come to dream,
every each spring of the grass, that is how our making is,
it is not true, it is not true that we came to live on the earth,
it comes and sprouts, it comes and our heart opens corollas,
our body gives out some flowers, it wilts!
The night gets drunk here.
Why did you make yourself scornful?
Immolate now, dress yourself with golden clothing!
My god carries water emeralds on his back,
by the middle of the aqueduct is his rest.
Quetzal feathers Sabino,
green serpent of turquoise,
he has done me favors.
May I be delighted, that I may not perish,
I am the young Corn Plant,
an emerald is my heart,
I will see the gold of the water!
My life will be refreshed, 
the firstborn man strengthens,
the one who Leads in the war is born!
My Corn Cob God with the face up high without a motive startles.
I am the young Corn Plant, from your mountains 
I come to see you, I your god. 
Will my life get refreshed?
The firstborn man strengthens, 
the one who leads in the war is born!
Like a wind Lilly the shield turns,
like smoke, the dust lifted,
the whistle with the hands repercutes,
in Tenochtitlan México;
where the place of the Tigers is,
the ones who have the charge of war,
whistle with the hands for the battle.
Ah, the flowers of the Smoking Shield
it is not true, it is not true,
they will never cease, they will never finish!
Though I may cry, though I may worry,
as much as my heart does not want it,
will I not have to go to the Mystery Region?
Here on the earth our hearts say.
Oh my friends! I wish we were immortal,
Oh friends! Where is the land where one cannot die?
Will I go? Does my mother live there? Does my father live there?
In the Mystery Region...My heart trembles,
if I would not die, if I would not perish...!

AMERINDIAN CULTURES:  Mexico and Central American Nahua Speakers, Past & Present - Native Americans Homepage

Indigenous Peoples' Literature

The Aztecs/Mexicas

The Aztecs/Mexicas were the native American people who dominated northern Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest led by Hernan CORTES in the early 16th century. According to their own legends, they originated from a place called Aztlan, somewhere in north or northwest Mexico. At that time the Aztecs (who referred to themselves as the Mexica or Tenochca) were a small, nomadic, Nahuatl-speaking aggregation of tribal peoples living on the margins of civilized Mesoamerica. Sometime in the 12th century they embarked on a period of wandering and in the 13th century settled in the central basin of México. Continually dislodged by the small city-states that fought one another in shifting alliances, the Aztecs finally found refuge on small islands in Lake Texcoco where, in 1325, they founded the town of TENOCHTITLAN (modern-day Mexico City). The term Aztec, originally associated with the migrant Mexica, is today a collective term, applied to all the peoples linked by trade, custom, religion, and language to these founders.

Fearless warriors and pragmatic builders, the Aztecs created an empire during the 15th century that was surpassed in size in the Americas only by that of the Incas in Peru. As early texts and modern archaeology continue to reveal, beyond their conquests and many of their religious practices, there were many positive achievements:

the formation of a highly specialized and stratified society and an imperial administration

the expansion of a trading network as well as a tribute system

the development and maintenance of a sophisticated agricultural economy, carefully adjusted to the land


the cultivation of an intellectual and religious outlook that held society to be an integral part of the cosmos.

The yearly round of rites and ceremonies in the cities of Tenochtitlan and neighboring Tetzcoco, and their symbolic art and architecture, gave expression to an ancient awareness of the interdependence of nature and humanity.

The Aztecs remain the most extensively documented of all Amerindian civilizations at the time of European contact in the 16th century. Spanish friars, soldiers, and historians and scholars of Indian or mixed descent left invaluable records of all aspects of life. These ethnohistoric sources, linked to modern archaeological inquiries and studies of ethnologists, linguists, historians, and art historians, portray the formation and flourishing of a complex imperial state.

Aztec Home Pages

Clockwise, the days of the Aztec Calendar are as follows:
Twenty Days of the Aztec Month
Snake - Coatl
Lizard - Cuetzpallin
House - Calli
Wind - Ehecatl
Crocodile - Cipactli
Flower - Xochitl
Rain - Quiahuitl
Flint - Tecpatl
Movement - Ollin
Vulture - Cozcacuauhtli
Eagle - Cuauhtle
Jaguar - Ocelotl
Cane - Acatl
Herb - Malinalli
Monkey - Ozomatli
Hairless Dog - Itzquintli
Water - Atl
Rabbit - Tochtli
Deer - Mazatl
Skull - Miquiztli

Aztec Gods

Religion was extremely important in Aztec life. They worshipped hundreds of gods and goddesses, each of whom ruled one or more human activities or aspects of nature. The people had many agricultural gods because their culture was based heavily on farming; also they included natural elements and ancestor-heroes. These gods included:

CENTEOTL, the corn god.

COATLICUE - She of the Serpent Skirt.

EHECATL, the god of wind.

HUEHUETEOTL, "the old, old deity," was one of the names of the cult of fire, among the oldest in Mesoamerica. The maintenance of fires in the temples was a principal priestly duty, and the renewal of fire was identified with the renewal of time itself.

HUITZILOPOCHTLI, (the war/sun god and special guardian of Tenochtitlan) the deified ancestral warrior-hero, was the Mexica-Aztec patron par excellence. His temple (next to that of Tlaloc) on the Main Pyramid was the focus of fearsome sacrifices of prisoners captured by Aztec warriors. Victims' heads were strung as trophies on a great rack, the Tzompantli, erected in the precinct below.

MICTLANTECUHTLE, god of the dead.

OMETECUHLTI and his wife OMECIHUATL created all life in the world.

QUETZALCOATL, (the god of civilization and learning) "quetzal (feather) serpent," had dozens of associations. It was the name of a deity, a royal title, the name of a legendary priest-ruler, a title of high priestly office. But its most fundamental significance as a natural force is symbolized by the sculpture of a coiled plumed serpent rising from a base whose underside is carved with the symbols of the earth deity and Tlaloc. The image of the serpent rising from the earth and bearing water on its tail is explained in the Nahuatl language by a description of Quetzalcoatl in terms of the rise of a powerful thunderstorm sweeping down, with wind raising dust before bringing rain.

TEZCATLIPOCA, (god of Night and Sorcery) "Smoking Mirror" (obsidian), characterized as the most powerful, supreme deity, was associated with the notion of destiny. His cult was particularly identified with royalty, for Tezcatlipoca was the object of the lengthy and reverent prayers in rites of kingship.

TLALOC, the rain deity, belonged to another most memorable and universal cult of ancient Mexico. The name may be Aztec, but the idea of a storm god especially identified with mountaintop shrines and life-giving rain was certainly as old as Teotihuacan. The primary temple of this major deity was located atop Mt. Tlaloc, where human victims were sacrificed to fertilize water-rocks within the sacred enclosure. In Tenochtitlan another Tlaloc temple shared the platform atop the dual Main Pyramid, a symbolic mountain.

TONATIUH, the sun, was perceived as a primary source of life whose special devotees were the warriors. The warriors were charged with the mission to provide the sun with sacrificial victims. A special altar to the sun was used for sacrifices in coronation rites, a fact that signifies the importance of the deity. The east-west path of the sun determined the principal ritual axis in the design of Aztec cities.

TONANTZIN, "honored grandmother," was among the many names of the female earth-deity.

TEZCATLIPOCA, an all-powerful god; Tonatiuh, the sun god.

XILONEN, "young maize ear," and Chicomecoatl, "seven serpent," were principal deities of maize representing the chief staple of Mesoamerican peoples.

XIPE TOTEC, the god of springtime and regrowth.

XIUHTECUHTLE the fire god.

The following is a list of Aztec Emperors:

NAME                    TRANSLATION                   DATES SERVED

TENOCH                 TUNA DE PIEDRA                   1325-1375

ACAMAPICHTLI           MANOJO DE CANAS                  1376-1396

HUITZILIHUITL          PLUMA DE COLIBRI                 1397-1417

CHIMALPOPOCA           ESCUDO HUMEANTE                  1418-1427

ITZCOATL               SERPIENTE DE OBSIDIANA           1428-1440


AXAYACATL              CARA DE AGUA                     1470-1481

TIZOC                  PIERNA ENFERMA                   1482-1486

AHUITZOTL              PERRO DE AGUA                    1487-1502


CUITALAHUAC            EXCREMENTO SECO                  1520-1521

(He who decends like an eagle.)


Cuauhtemoc, c.1495-1525, became ruler of the AZTECS in 1521, during the siege of TENOCHTITLAN, and led the final desperate resistance of that city against the Spanish conquistadors. After weeks of street fighting, he surrendered to Hernan CORTES. This act marked the end of the Aztec empire and the beginning of Spanish dominion in Mexico.

Cuauhtemoc was first treated kindly by the Spanish, then imprisoned and tortured, and finally hanged during Cortes's march to Honduras, on a charge of plotting treachery. A tomb below the church at his birthplace, Ixcateopan in Guerrero, is said to contain his remains, but not all scholars accept this attribution.

Aztec Books, Documents, and Writing

Aztec Bibliography

Berdan, Frances F., and Anawalt, Patricia, eds., The Codex Mendoza, 4 vols. (1992)

Berdan, Frances. Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society. Holt, 1982. Ethnographic reconstruction of preconquest Aztec culture.

Carrasco, David, ed., To Change Place: Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes (1991)

Caso, Alfonso. The Aztecs, People of the Sun. Oklahoma, 1978. Trans. Lowell Dunham. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1958. Contends that Aztecs were primarily religious people and lived accordingly.

Castillo, Bernal Diaz, The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, trans. by A. P. Maudsley (1956)

Chimalpain's " Diferentes Historias Originales de los Reinos de Culhuacan y México y de Otras Provincias "

Clendinnen, Inga. Aztecs: An Interpretation. Cambridge, 1991. Describes the lives of "ordinary" Aztecs.

Cortes, Hernan, Letters from Mexico, trans. by A. R. Pagden (1971)

Cortez, Hernando ' "Cartas de Relación " (a series of five letters written by the conqueror to king Charles V, published in Spanish by Porrúa Hermanos and in English by Norton & Co. as translated by J. Bayard Morris)

Davies, Nigel. The Aztecs: A History. Oklahoma, 1980; 1986. Political history spanning 400-year empire before Spanish conquest.

del Castillo, Berná Diaz. Discovery and Conquest of Mexico. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy, 1956.

Duran, Diego 's "Book of the Gods and Rites and the Ancient Calendar " (translated by Doris Heyden and Fernando Horcasitas in a 1971 edition by the Univ. of Oklahoma Press)

Hassig, Ross. Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control. Oklahoma, 1988. An examination of the Aztec Empire in terms of its own goals and objectives.

Karen, Ruth. Feathered Serpent: The Rise and Fall of the Aztecs. Four Winds, 1979. The origins of the civilization, brutal cultural organization, and military conquest by Spaniards.

Leó, Miguel. The Aztec Image of Self and Society. Ed. J. Jorge Klow de Alva. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992.

Leon-Portilla, Miguel. Aztec Image of Self and Society. Utah, 1992. "An Introduction to Nahua Culture" (subtitle).

Leon-Portilla, Miguel, ed. The Broken Spears: An Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. Beacon, 1962. Translations of a selection of indigenous accounts of the conquest.

Leon-Portilla, Miguel's "Aztec Thought and Culture " (Univ. Oklahoma Press, 1963; several printings), A classic analysis of the Aztec mind, a translation of the author's 1956 Spanish original: "La FilosofíaNahuatl " (UNAM, Mexico City).

Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo. Aztecs. Rizzoli, 1989. Draws on both archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence.The Mighty Aztecs. National Geographic, 1981. Illustrated overview of their short-lived glories.

Moctezuma, Eduardo Matos. The Great Temple of the Aztecs. Trans. Doris Heyden. New York: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1988.

Soustelle, Jacques's "La Vida Cotidiana de los Aztecas en Vísperas de la Conquista " (1956, Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico City, many printings), a translation from the original French work published in 1955.

Tezozomoc, Fernando Alvarado 's "Crónica Mexicayotl " (1975, UNAM, Mexico City).

Townsend, Richard F., The Aztecs (1992)

Weaver, Muriel Porter. The Aztecs, Maya, and Their Predecessors Archeology of Mesoamerica. New York: Seminar Press, 1972.

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This section will provide information on artifacts or subjects related to Mexicah, Nahua, or Ixachilankah culture.

The place of Nahuatl within Uto-Aztecan

Main articles: Nahuatl dialects and Pochutec

In the past the branch of Uto-Aztecan to which Nahuatl belongs was called "Aztecan".[12] From the 1990s on, the alternative designation "Nahuan" has been frequently used as a replacement especially in Spanish language publications. Since the monograph of Lyle Campbell and Ronald Langacker (1978), the Nahuan (Aztecan) branch of Uto-Aztecan is widely accepted as having two divisions, "General Aztec" and Pochutec.[13]

General Aztec encompasses the Nahuatl and Pipil languages.[14] Pochutec is a scantily attested language which went extinct in the 20th century. The notion that Pochutec should not be considered a variety of Nahuatl was already several decades old, but Campbell and Langacker adduced new arguments for it. Other researchers maintain that Pochutec should be considered a divergent variant of the western periphery.[15]

"Nahuatl" denotes at least Classical Nahuatl together with related modern languages spoken in Mexico. The inclusion of Pipil (Nawat) into the group is slightly controversial. Lyle Campbell, who has worked intensively with the Pipil language, classifies Pipil as separate from the Nahuatl branch within general Aztecan, whereas dialectologists like Una Canger, Karen Dakin and Yolanda Lastra prefer to include Pipil in the General Aztecan branch, citing close historical ties with the so-called eastern peripheral dialects of General Aztec.[16]

[edit] History

[edit] Pre-Cuauhtemoc period

On the issue of geographic origin, linguists during the 20th century agreed that the Uto-Aztecan language family originated in the southwestern United States.[17] Evidence from archaeology and ethnohistory also supports the southward diffusion thesis, specifically that speakers of early Nahuan languages migrated from the northern Mexican deserts into central Mexico in several waves. But recently, the traditional assessment has been challenged by Jane H. Hill, who proposes instead that the Uto-Aztecan language family originated in central Mexico and spread northwards at a very early date.[18]

The purported migration of speakers of the Proto-Nahuan language into the Mesoamerican region has been placed at sometime around AD 500, towards the end of the Early Classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.[19] Before reaching the central altiplano, pre-Nahuan groups probably spent a period of time in contact with the Coracholan languages Cora and Huichol of northwestern Mexico (which are also Uto-Aztecan).[20]

The major political and cultural center of Mesoamerica in the Early Classic period was Teotihuacan. The identity of the language(s) spoken by Teotihuacan's founders has long been debated, with the relationship of Nahuatl to Teotihuacan being prominent in that enquiry.[21] While in the 19th and early 20th centuries it was presumed that Teotihuacan had been founded by speakers of Nahuatl, later linguistic and archaeological research tended to disconfirm this view. Instead, the timing of the Nahuatl influx was seen to coincide more closely with Teotihuacan's fall than its rise, and other candidates such as Totonacan identified as more likely.[22] But recently, evidence from Mayan epigraphy of possible Nahuatl loanwords in Mayan languages has been interpreted as demonstrating that other Mesoamerican languages may have been borrowing words from Proto-Nahuan (or its early descendants) significantly earlier than previously thought, bolstering the possibility of a significant Nahuatl presence at Teotihuacan.[23][24][25][26][27]

In Mesoamerica the Mayan, Oto-Manguean and Mixe-Zoquean language families had coexisted for millennia. This had given rise to the Mesoamerican Linguistic Area (a linguistic area being one where a set of language traits have become common among the area's language by diffusion and not by evolution within a set of languages belonging to a common genetic subgrouping). After the Nahuas migrated into the Mesoamerican cultural zone, their language too adopted some of the traits defining the Mesoamerican Linguistic Area.[28] Examples of such adopted traits are the use of relational nouns, the appearance of calques, or loan translations, and a form of possessive construction typical of Mesoamerican languages.

A language which was the ancestor of Pochutec split from Proto-Nahuan (or Proto-Aztecan) possibly as early as AD 400, arriving in Mesoamerica a few centuries earlier than the main bulk of speakers of Nahuan languages.[5] Some Nahuan groups migrated south along the Central American isthmus, reaching perhaps as far as Nicaragua. The moribund Pipil language of El Salvador is the only living descendant of the variety of Nahuatl once spoken south of present day Mexico.[29]

Beginning in the 7th century Nahuan speakers rose to power in central Mexico. The people of the Toltec culture of Tula, Hidalgo, which was active in central Mexico around the 10th century, are thought to have been Nahuatl speakers. By the 11th century, Nahuatl speakers were dominant in the Valley of Mexico and far beyond, with settlements including Azcapotzalco, Colhuacan and Cholula rising to prominence. Nahua migrations into the region from the north continued into the Postclassic period. One of the last of these migrations to arrive in the Valley of Mexico settled on an island in the Lake Texcoco and proceeded to subjugate the surrounding tribes. This group was the Mexica (or Mexihka), who over the course of the next three centuries founded an empire named Tenochtitlan. Their political and linguistic influence came to extend into Central America and Nahuatl became a lingua franca among merchants and elites in Mesoamerica, e.g., among the Quiché (K'iche') Maya

Updated 10/27/03

Tiquilnamiquih Totlahtol Nahuatl
We remember, reflect
our language Nahuatl
Ticmachtiah, Tiquihcuiloah, Tictlahtoah Totlahtol Nahuatl
We learn, We write, We speak

our language Nahuatl
Tictlazohtlah, Ticnotzah Totlahtol Nahuatl
We love, We call our language Nahuatl
...Temachtia Nahuatl teach someone Nahuatl
Ticcaquih Nahuatl, Ticcuicah Totlahtol Nahuatl
we hear Nahuatl, We sing our language Nahuatl !!!.


Updated 10/27/03

Tiquilnamiquih Totlahtol Nahuatl
We remember, reflect
our language Nahuatl
Ticmachtiah, Tiquihcuiloah, Tictlahtoah Totlahtol Nahuatl
We learn, We write, We speak

our language Nahuatl
Tictlazohtlah, Ticnotzah Totlahtol Nahuatl
We love, We call our language Nahuatl
...Temachtia Nahuatl teach someone Nahuatl
Ticcaquih Nahuatl, Ticcuicah Totlahtol Nahuatl
we hear Nahuatl, We sing our language Nahuatl !!!.