Aztecs leaving Chicomoztoc, 7 Caves.
After the Conquista in 1521 AD, the Spanish conquistadores had entire Aztec libraries burned, claiming they did contain nothing but superstitious beliefs. Such barbarian murdering of cultural heritage isn't all that rare throughout world history. In Ancient Times, the library of Alexandria went up in flames and in Modern Times Nazi rulers ordered the destruction of books by fire. Even the Aztecs themselves set a bad example.
Itzcóatl (1428-1440), king of Tenochtitlan, had all pictorial manuscripts burned, 'since it wouldn't be right if the people were to find out what they contained'. He probably wanted Mexican history to start with his rulership, thus wiping out most of Mexica-Azteca-Tenochca history. When asking about his ancestors, Itzcóatl's successor found out about this gap in time.
When Motecuhzoma the Old (1441-1469) was resting from his many victories in
war, he felt the urge to find out more about the homeland of his ancestors, a
desire so strong, he decided to send out an expedition in order to search for
the mythical city of Chicomoztoc, the '7 caves', since nobody even recollected
where their ancestors came from.
Chapter 27 by Durán (1967 II:215-224) tells us the remarkable story in spanish of this expedition and its successful ending (1). It has now been freely translated in english by Pieter De Keyser and be completed with comments by A. L. Vollemaere.
We also know the mother of our God Huitzilopochtli (5) was still alive at
that time. She might still live, and therefore they will give her what they
carry with them, and tell her to enjoy all her son has conquered by the
strength of his arms and chest, and by the power of his mind.' 2.- Tlacaelel answered : 'Mighty Lord, Your royal heart is not being swayed
and moved by your own intentions, nor because of human reasons, but
undoubtedly by some kind of eternal deity, source of all the good in this
created nature, whose providence, most erudite Lord, incites you to undertake
such a great plan. To this I would like to reply the following, but forgive me
if it seems I want to enforce my ideas upon you. You should know, My Lord,
that all you wish to do and undertake is nothing for strong and brave men, and
does not depend on dexterity in martial art. I tell you this to make sure you
do not send noisy warriors and captains with arms. For they are not on a
mission of conquest, but will have to search and examine the place our parents
and grandparents have lived and resided, and where
Huitzilopochtli was born. 3.- You should rather search wizards and sorcerers, who can locate these
places by the force of their magic words and incantations, because, as our
stories tell, the site is covered with large spinose shrubs, spiny and thick,
and high and dense shrubs, because the entire area is strewn with large lakes
and lagoons, covered with fields of thick grass and reed, and because the site
is so hard to find, unless by extreme chance. 4.- Therefore, please follow my advice, My Lord, and search the people I
tell you to, for they will go and discover this place and report you on it.
Although our parents and grandparents lived there, it was an extremely
traitorous and for a long time, an unattractive spot, where they found a quiet
home and lived without aging or getting tired, and without going without
anything. When they had left however, all became spine and thistles. Stones
became jagged as to torture them, the grass pricked and also the trees became
spinose. Everything turned against them, so they would never could or want to
return there. 5.- Motecuhzoma realized Tlacaelel's advice was wise, and agreed to send
for Cuauhcoatl (6), the old royal historian. When the latter stood before him,
he said : 'Old Father, I really would like to know what your history has to
tell about the Seven Caves in which our forefathers and grandparents lived,
and where this residence of our God Huitzilopochtli, from where he led our
fathers, is located.' 6.- Cuauhcoatl responded : 'Mighty Lord, all I, your humble servant, know
about the things you ask about, is that parents resided in
this happy and joyful land they named Aztlán, which means 'whiteness' (7).
1.- Motecuhzoma was determined to find out where his forefathers had lived
and what the Seven Caves the stories so often reminded of, looked like. This
is why he sent for Tlacaelel (4) to whom he spoke : 'I have decided to gather
my bravest men, to prepare and train them well, and to have them search this
place, packed with many of the rich goods given by the God of Creation, of Day
and Night, thanks to whom we live. They will offer these to the people they
will encounter in this place.
We also know the mother of our God Huitzilopochtli (5) was still alive at that time. She might still live, and therefore they will give her what they carry with them, and tell her to enjoy all her son has conquered by the strength of his arms and chest, and by the power of his mind.'
2.- Tlacaelel answered : 'Mighty Lord, Your royal heart is not being swayed and moved by your own intentions, nor because of human reasons, but undoubtedly by some kind of eternal deity, source of all the good in this created nature, whose providence, most erudite Lord, incites you to undertake such a great plan. To this I would like to reply the following, but forgive me if it seems I want to enforce my ideas upon you. You should know, My Lord, that all you wish to do and undertake is nothing for strong and brave men, and does not depend on dexterity in martial art. I tell you this to make sure you do not send noisy warriors and captains with arms. For they are not on a mission of conquest, but will have to search and examine the place our parents and grandparents have lived and resided, and where Huitzilopochtli was born.
3.- You should rather search wizards and sorcerers, who can locate these places by the force of their magic words and incantations, because, as our stories tell, the site is covered with large spinose shrubs, spiny and thick, and high and dense shrubs, because the entire area is strewn with large lakes and lagoons, covered with fields of thick grass and reed, and because the site is so hard to find, unless by extreme chance.
4.- Therefore, please follow my advice, My Lord, and search the people I tell you to, for they will go and discover this place and report you on it. Although our parents and grandparents lived there, it was an extremely traitorous and for a long time, an unattractive spot, where they found a quiet home and lived without aging or getting tired, and without going without anything. When they had left however, all became spine and thistles. Stones became jagged as to torture them, the grass pricked and also the trees became spinose. Everything turned against them, so they would never could or want to return there.
5.- Motecuhzoma realized Tlacaelel's advice was wise, and agreed to send for Cuauhcoatl (6), the old royal historian. When the latter stood before him, he said : 'Old Father, I really would like to know what your history has to tell about the Seven Caves in which our forefathers and grandparents lived, and where this residence of our God Huitzilopochtli, from where he led our fathers, is located.'
6.- Cuauhcoatl responded : 'Mighty Lord, all I, your humble servant, know
about the things you ask about, is that parents resided in
this happy and joyful land they named Aztlán, which means 'whiteness' (7).
7.- 'In this mountain were some cavities, caves and holes, which our parents and grandparents inhabited for many years. Here is where they found peace, and were named 'mixitin' or 'aztecas' (9).
8.- 'They enjoyed an abundance of different species of ducks, herons, sea-crows, moorhens and coots. They enjoyed the song and melody of birds with little red and yellow heads. They enjoyed different species of beautiful big fish. They enjoyed the fresh orchards on the banks and near the sources surrounded with willows, cedars and lovely tall alders.
9.- They had canoes and arranged chinampas, in which they sowed corn, chile, tomatoes, huauhtli (10), beans and different kinds of seeds, we still eat and which they brought from there. But when they later left this adorable place and headed for the mainland, everything turned against them. The grass was biting, the stones cutting, the fields were full of thistles and thorns. They found huge shrubs and thorn-bush they could not pass and there was not a single place for them to sit down or rest. The place was infested with serpents and adders, lions, tigers and other fierce and dangerous animals. This is the oral tradition of our ancestors, and the content of my historical writings. And this account, Mighty King, is the sole answer I can give to your question.'
10.- The King acknowledged this, since it was Tlacaelel who personally told this story. Hence, he ordered to gather the wizards and sorcerers of all provinces. Sixty men who mastered the magic sorcery, were brought before him. They were all old men.
11.- And he spoke to them : 'Old fathers, I would like to know which is the place the mexicanos left behind, which country it is, who lives there now and if the mother of our God Huitzilopochtli is still alive. Therefore, I want you to go there, in the best possible shape and as soon as possible.'
12.- He then ordered to bring large quantities of different cloths, women's clothes, precious stones, gold, precious jewels, much cocoa and teonacatzli (11), cotton, large quantities of black vanilla roses and wonderful feathers, the best, the most beautiful and the largest. In fact the best and most priceless goods and treasures. He gave it to the sorcerers to carry, together with their blankets and rewards, so they would act with much more care and attention, and gave them sufficient provisions for their journey.
13.- They set off and when they reached a mountain called Coatepec (13) in the province of Tula (12), they all started to perform their incantations and started to call upon the devil, while they rubbed their body with ointments their peers used to apply before them and still use today. For among them are great sorcerers and indios possessed by the devil.
14.- You will say: How come they are not discovered? Because they hide themselves from us more than any other people on earth, and because they do not trust us. This is the way they hide their crimes from us and keep their secrets. If surprisingly enough, something might come out or we would get to know something, there is always somebody who asks to cover it up and keep quiet about it.
15.- They called upon the devil and begged him to show them where their forefathers had lived. Because of these pleas and requests, and because of themselves who were transformed in birds and other fierce animals, the devil took them and all they brought with them to the place where their forefathers had lived.
16.- When they had reached the shore of a hige lagoon, from which center rose mount Colhuacan, they returned to their human bodies. Tradition tells us they saw people fishing in canoes, working on a farm, and that they called out for them. When the locals noticed these strangers who spoke their language (14), they came rowing towards them in order to see what it was they wanted, to ask them what they wanted and what they were looking for.
17.- They answered : 'Lords, we come from Mexico, and our lords have sent us to search the place our ancestors have lived.' The locals asked which god they adored. They answered that the great Huitzilopochtli, the great king Motecuhzoma and his assistant Tlacaelel had sent them out to search for Coatlicue (15), Huitzilopochtli's mother, and for a place called Chicomoztoc, from where their ancestors had left. They also told them they brought many presents for Coatlicue, if she was still alive, and if not, for their parents and descendants who served her.
18.- They asked them to wait and went to the tutor of Huitzilopochtli's mother, and told him : 'Mighty Lord, people who call themselves mexicanos have reached the shore. They have been sent by a mighty lord Motecuhzoma and another called Tlacaelel. They bring presents and offerings for the mother of their god Huitzilopochtli, and tell they are to give these to her in person.' The old man replied : 'They are welcome, bring them to me.'
19.- They went back in their canoes, let the Mexicans take place with their baggage and rowed them to Colhuacán mountain, which is said to be covered with very shifty sand, from the middle up to the top, thus making it impossible to climb since the sand was so shifty and deep. (16) When they entered the house of the old man at the foot of the mountain, they greeted him with great courtesy and said to him : 'Oh, honorable Old Lord! We, your servants have travelled to this place where your word is law and where the breath of your mouth is worshiped.'
20.- They answered them : 'Welcome, my sons. Who has sent you here?' They said : 'Lord, Motecuhzoma and his assistant Tlacaelel, also called Cihuacoatl (17), have sent us here.' The old man asked : 'Who are Motecuhzoma and Tlacaelel?' For this kind of names was not in use with them. The local names were: Tezcatetl, Acacitli, Ocelopan, Ahatl, Xomimitl, Ahuexotl, Huictoh, Tenoch (18). These were 7 men, each ruling a tribe. There were 4 wonderous teachers of Huitzilopochtli whose names were Cuauhtloquezqui, Axolohua and two others (19).
21.- They answered them : 'Lord, we admit we do not know these lords yet. We have never even seen them ourselves, for thay have long died. The terrified old man answered with great astonishment : 'Oh, Lord of Creation! Why did they die? Who are those who live now?' They said they were the nephews of those he had enumerated.
22.- He asked them who they believed was the father and ancestor of the divine Huitzilopochtli. They told him he was a great priest called Cuauhcoatl who told what (the god) desired and to whom he revealed his will. The old man asked them : 'Have yoy seen him when you left? Has he told you anything?' They replied not, that they had been sent by the king and his assistant, but that Cuauhcoatl hadn't ordered or said them anything.
23.- The old man said : 'This means he will not let us know when he will return. He once promised his mother he would return, but the poor lady has been waiting for years, until today. She is oh so sad and depressed, no one can comfort her.' They replied : 'Lord, we have done what our lords have told us. We have with us a present for the great lady, who our lords charged us to visit and greet, to honor her with the booty and richness her son enjoys.' The old man said : 'Get all you have brought with you and go and see her.'
24.- They threw their presents on their backs and followed the old man. He began to climb the mountain with so little effort and with such ease, he did´þt even seem to touch the sand? While they tried to follow him with the greatest difficulty and effort, they were swallowed by the sand. When the old man turned to see, he saw that they were up in sand to their knees and that they could not continue. He spoke to them : 'What is the matter with you people? Are you not continuing with me? Move on!'
25.- They wanted to follow him but got stuck in sand to the middle, and since they couldn't go on, they called to the old man to say he seemed to go so fast he didn´t even seem to touch the sand. He turned around and said : 'What's the matter with you, Mexicans? How did you become so fat? What's the food of your country?' 'Lord, we eat the meat of the animals that are bred there and drink cocoa.'
26.- The old man answered : 'All these foods and drinks, my sons, have made you so fat and heavy, you will never see the land your parents lived in, and has turned you into mortals (20). Here, we do not know all the richness you have brought with you. We just live a poor and simple life. So stay there while I call out for the Old Lady, Huitzilopochtli's mother, so you can see her. He took a loadful of presents on his shoulders and carried it up the mountain as if it were just a bundle of straw. He then returned to pick up the rest and once more carried it uphill without any difficulty.
27.- When the Mexicanos had transported all they had brought with them, a very old woman came outside. Judging by her appearance, she was dirtier and filthier than anyone could ever imagine. Her face was so covered with filth and so black, she seemed to rise from hell (21). Crying bitter tears, she said : 'Welcome my sons. You should know that since the day your God, my son Huitzilopochtli, has left, I am only tears and sorrow, and that I am still waiting for him to return. I haven't washed my face, combed my hair, nor changed my clothes since the day he has abandoned me. This mourn and sorrow will last until the day he returns. Is it true my sons, it are the Lords of the 7 tribes who led my son away and who have sent you here to me?
28.- When their eyes gazed at such an revolting and ugly woman, they were filled with fear, became very humble and said : 'Mighty Lady, we have never seen the lords of the calpules, nor even talked with them. Those who have sent us here are your servant King Motecuhzoma and Tlacaelel Cihuacoatl, his assistant, for they wanted us to search for you and visit our ancestors'land. They have ordered us to kiss your hands in their names.'
29.- 'So you would know how he reigns and rules the great city of México, that he is not the first king, for he is the fifth, and that the first ruling king's name was Acamapichtli, the second Huitzilhuit, the third Chimalpopoca and the fourth Itzcoatl, and finally that I, your humble servant, am the fifth and that my name is Huehue Motecuhzoma and that I will always be at your service. (22)
30.- 'So you would know that the last 4 kings have suffered hunger, poverty and hard work, that they had to pay taxes to other provinces, but that now the city is prospering and free, and that the roads along the coast, across the seas and the entire country have been opened and put under security. Now already Mexico is the lady and princess, the capital ruling all cities, for these are all under her power (23). Mines filled with gold, silver and precious stones have been discovered here, as well as the house of the beautiful feathers. For you could see it with your own eyes, he sends you these gifts, the rich goods of your amazing son Huitzilopochtli, who, by the strength of his arms and chest and heart and head, has acquired all the Lord of Creation, of Day and Night has given us. We herewith end the reasons for our visit.'
31.- Somewhat settled from her lamentation, she told them : 'Congratulations, my sons, I thank my sons for thisþ Tell me : The old men my son led away from here, are they still alive?' They answered : 'Lady, they are no longer among us. They have died, even we have never known them. We have nothing left but their shadow and memory.' She started wailing once more and said : 'What did they die from, for all their friends here are still alive.'
32.- 'Tell me, my sons, what you have brought along. Is it food?' They said : 'Lady, it is food and beverage. Cocoa is for drinking, the rest can be mixed with it or eaten as such.' 'It has made you heavier, my sons, so you could not climb up here. But tell me : Does the dress of my son look the same as yours, covered with feathers and rich ornaments?' They answered : 'Yes, my Lady, he is dressed this way, and adorns himself with precious and elegant things, for he is Lord of everything.'
33.- Coatlicue answered : 'It is very good, my sons. My heart is at peace, but tell him to have pity on me and the great work that has been done without him. Look at me, fasting and doing penance because of him. I can still remember what he told me the day he left : 'Mother, I shall soon return, as soon as I have led these 7 tribes away to the place they shall live in and inhabit the land they were promised. As soon as this settlement has been founded, is inhabited and comforted, I will surely return.'
34.- 'All of this will happen when I reach the end of my pilgrimage and the time I was allotted will expire. All this time, I will have to fight wars with all provinces, cities, villages and places, and subject them to my power. But with the same order as I will subdue these peoples, they will expell me, and once more will have to subject foreign peoples who will in their turn expell me from their countries.'
35.- 'Then I will leave there and return here, for those I shall have subjected by sword and shield, these same people will turn against me and throw me upside down, so I will tumble on the ground with my weapons clanging. Then, my Mother, my time will have expired and will I flee back to your womb. Until then, do not feel pain. However, I am begging you to give me two pairs of shoes, one to go and one to return, or rather give me 4 pairs, 2 to go and 2 to return. (24). And I told him : 'My son, go now and watch out you don't stay away longer than the time you have been allotted. Then return to me.'
36.- 'It seems to me, my sons, he must have a good life there, for he has decided to stay there and forget all about his sad mother, for he does not search her, and doesn't care for her. This is why I want you to tell him time is running out, so he would remember I want to see him, for I am his mother. Therefore, give him this belt and this girdle, for him to put on.'
37.- They accepted the belt and girdle and descended the mountain. When standing on its slopes, the old Lady started to shout : 'Hold right there, and you will see how the people in this country never age. Do you see my old tutor? Let him descend and when he reaches you, you will see he wil have become a little boy.'
38.- The ancient man started to descend and as he was coming down, he became younger and younger, and when he stood beside them, he was a 20 year old young man. He said : 'Do you see I am a young man? Look what happens : I want to return uphill now, but I will never be able to go further than half way the slope, and I will return much older.'
39.- He climbed up the mountain, turned around half way its slope, and they saw him as a 40 year old man. He turned around once more and ascended just a little bit more, about 20 paces. He returned and became an ancient man, after which he told them : 'You should know about the peculiar quality this mountain has : those who are old and want to become young again, climb this mountain a little bit further than half way up, and when they wish to become middle aged, they stop right in the middle. This is why we live a long life here, and why all your fathers left behind here, are still alive. Not one has died, for we rejuvenate whenever we want. (25)
40.- 'Look: all these terrible things have happened to you because of the cocoa you drink and the food you eat. They have harmed and mutilated you and transformed your nature. It are the coats and feathers and precious thing you have brought, that make you lose.'
41.- 'You will not leave this place, before I have given you presents for your Lords in return of what you have brought.' He sent for all kinds of ducks, geese, herons and sea birds that live in the lagoon, together with different species of fish, all kinds of vegetables this land produces and all kinds of roses that grow here. He had long strings made of them and gave these to them together with blankets of agave fibres and loincloths (26), one for Motecuhzoma and one for Tlacaelel. He asked them to ask forgiveness with their Lords, for he could not give hem more presents than these, and then said goodbye.
42.- They accepted his present and when performing their rounds and incantations like during their journey here, they were transformed in the same shapes and animals as before, and when heading on like this, they reached mount Coatepec where they gathered and became normal human beings again. Some arrived later than the others, and when they counted their number, they saw 20 were missing. Showing their astonishment when seeing one third of them hadnþt arrived, some said they had been devoured by the wild animals and raptors they had met along the way. (27)
43.- It couldnþt be, for the devil took them and decimated them according to their work, since history tells they needed 10 days to get there, whereas they returned in only 8 days, a journey of 300 leguas and yet they had lost time. They could have done this journey to and from much quicker, like the man who had led others from Guatemala to this place in only 3 days, the wish of an old lady to behold this good face, as is written in the first 'auto' of the Holy Inquisition in México. (28)
44.- When all wizards and sorcerers had returned to México, they brought the present they had brought home to Motecuhzoma and told him : 'Lord, we have acted according to your wish and have fulfilled your word, for we have seen what you wanted to know, for we have seen the land of Aztlan and Colhuacan, where they lived and where our fathers and grandfathers left, and we have brought with us the things that grow and live there.'
45.- They showed him strings of corncobs, seeds and roses, all different from what they grew, and tomatoes, pepers and belts and cotton blankets this people had given for them (29). In the meantime they told him all about what they had been through with Huitzilopochtli's mother and her old tutor, and how they had seen him as a young man, an old man and a middle aged man, and that all those thier ancestors had left behind, still lived there. They also told how Coatlicue was complaining about her son Huitzilopochtli, how she waited for him and what he had told her on his departure : that he would be ejected from the country after a certain period of time and would have to return to her, for in the same way he would subject peoples, his power and rulership would be taken away from him.
46.- The king sent for Tlacaelel and had them relate everything once more before him, and give him part of the presents they had brought especially for him. They told him how fertile the land was, how fresh its orchards and how they proceded to search all they needed for their sustention, how they rowed their canoes and made their chinampas on the water in order to seed and grow the vegetables they consumed. They told them about the waters teeming with fish, as proven by the many presents they brought along, and the huge number of sea birds, about the sweet song of many different birds, great and small. They accounted on the seeds :
47.- They told them how they were unable to climb the mountain and how they got stuck in the sand to their middle, while the old man climbed it with great ease and how he carried to the top all they had brought along. They said he had told them it was because of the heavy and bad food they ate, such as the cocoa and fruits they grew. They also told them about the grief and fear that caught them when they heard all who had left the place, had died.
48.- Motecuhzoma and Tlacaelel started to cry and let their feelings flow, in memeory of their forefathers and their desire to see the place they had been born. After having told these weary travellers to rest, for which they were grateful, he ordered they would all be given clothes and some presents in return for what they had done, thanked them and brought the robe of agave fibres to the temple to honour Huitzilopochtli, for his mother had given these presents just for him.
In addition to these footnotes, we will later publish a complementary analysis, covering all Duran's data.
(1) See comments on the translation by Pieter DE KEYSER in our Aztlan- publication.
(2) Motecuhzoma is the first king of that name in Tenochtitl n, but before him, another king named Motecuhzoma, reigned in their homeland Aztlán, according to Tezozmoc (1975:15) : 'El Aztlán de los antiguos mexicanos es lo que hoy d¡a se denomina Nuevo México; reinaba all el llamado Moctezuma. Este rey tenía 2 hijos, ...'. We ignore whether this data is correct and reliable, but anyway we will have to take it into account.
(3) After Aztlán and Colhuacán, Chicomoztoc, or the '7 Caves' has been the most important Aztec residence in the initial period. The history of many of the Nahuatl-speaking peoples refers to this place. Even the Popol Vuh, the Maya-Quiché manuscript par excellence, mentions 'Tulan, Zuyva, Vucub Peq, Vucub Zivan,...' or 'Tollan, Zuyva, 7 Caves, 7 Canyons,...' (Munro S. Edmonson 1971:161:5259). We will tell you more about the 7 caves later on. Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca (1976:F.5r, Ms 54-58 p.11 & F.16r, Ms 51-53 p.28) contains 2 interesting plates of Chicomoztoc, with pictures of the local flora.
(4) Chimalpahin (1889:75-76) claims that Tlacaelel is the half-brother of Motecuhzoma the Old, Ilhuicaminatzin Chalchiuhtlatonac. Both were born on the same day of the year 10 Tochtli (10 Rabbit) or 1398. The father was Huitzilihuitl II, king of Tenochtitlán, but their mothers were Cacamacihuatzin, princess of Teocalhuiyacan and Miyahuaxiuhtzin, princess of Quauhnahuac. Tlacaelel was a few hours older than Motecuhzoma :
'X tochtli xihuitl, 1398 años, ipan in, yn iuh quimachiyotia huehuetque
Moteuhczoma Ylhuicaminatzin Chalchiuhtlatonac, motzcallohua ye onmopillohua
tonatiuh tlacat, Cuauhnahuac cihuapilli yn inantzin ytoca Miyahuaxiuhtzin, auh
y Tlacaelleltzin motla catilli yohuatzinco hual momana tonatiuh, yn
tiquihtohua, hualquiza tonatiuh, ynic mitoa tetiachcauh tlacat; Teocalhuiyacan
cihuapilli yn inantzin ytoca Cacamacihuatzin; cecen nanti, auh za centatli
yehuatl yn teomeca Huitzillihuitl, tlahtohuani Tenuchtitlan.'
'Année 10 lapin, 1398. Alors, comme l'indiquent les anciens mexicains, naquirent Moteuhczoma, l'ancien, Ilhuicaminatzin Chalchiuhtlatonac, qui vint au monde au moment où le soleil était déjà élevé, et dont la mère nommée Miyahuaxiuhtzin était princesse de Quauhnahuac, et Tlacaelleltzin qui naquit le matin au moment où, comme nous disons, le soleil allait se lever, de sorte qu'il fut l'ainé; sa mère nommée Cacamacihuatzin était princesse de Teocalhuiyacan; ainsi ils n'étaient pas de la même mère, mais avaient le même père qui était Huitzilihuitl ii, roi de Tenochtitlan.'
Chimalpahin (1889:85, 96, 98, 101, 103 and 106) adds more information about Tlacaelel :
This way he became the highest superior officer at the Court of
Tenochtitlán. This title was also in use in in Teotihuacán and in
Tepetlixpan-Chimalhuacan. His stepbrother, Motecuhzoma received from Itzcóatl
the title of Tlacateccatl (General with troups).
'He married Maquitzin, the third child of Quetzalmazatzin, Lord of the
Chichimecs. He was the nephew of Itzcohuatzin, King of Tenochtitlan, from who
he was to inherit the title of Atecpanecatl (He who leads the waters).
This way he became the highest superior officer at the Court of Tenochtitlán. This title was also in use in in Teotihuacán and in Tepetlixpan-Chimalhuacan. His stepbrother, Motecuhzoma received from Itzcóatl the title of Tlacateccatl (General with troups).
Tlacaeleltzin conquered in the year 1 Tecpatl (1 Silex or 1428) the land of Azcapotzalco. He became Cihuacóatl or vice-roy, probably in the year 4 Acatl (1 Reed or 1431). He received the general's title of Tlacochcalcatl (He who provides the arrows) that same year. He provided Itzcóatl with many victories on the Azcaputzalca, Cuyohuaque, Xochimilca and the inhabitants of Cuitlahuacán. He was also the man who made the devil Huitzilopochtli as god of the Mexicans. He was the most courageous and the most important figure of the State. Nevertheless, he had no ambition of becoming king, and he lived happy and in wealth. His some hours younger step-brother, Motecuhzoma became king of Tenochtitlán in his place, while he himself became vice-roy (Cihuacóatl).
Although he lived in abundance, his name means 'poor, unfortunate' according, to Siméon (1885:501) : 'Tlacaelleli, adj. v. Privé de ses biens, malheureux, tombé dans la misère en punition de sa dûreté à l'égard des nécessiteux. RR. tlacatl, elleloa.
Meaby he never cared for the needy in his youth. This is why he was nicknamed Tlacaelel. We cannot forget that we indeed know the historical figures only by their nickname or give name, and not by their family name.
(5) Huitzilopochtli, lefthanded hummingbird or southern hummingbird, became at a certain time the main god of the Tenochca (Azteca Mexica). The important twin pyramid of Tenochtitlán (now Templo Mayor on the Plaza Mayor), was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli and the rain and wind god Tlaloc. We hope to write a paper about this very important god. Sahagún (1880:13-14) give us the following information :
Ce dieu, appelé Uitzilopochtli, fut un autre Hercule, de taille élevée, de
force considérable, très belliqueux, grand destructeur de villes et vivant de
carnage. Il entreprenait les guerres comme un feu dévorant, toujours
redoutable pour le parti qui lui était opposé. Il portait sur son écusson une
tête épouvantable de dragon vomissant des flammes. Il était nécromancier ou
ami des déguisements, et se transformait souvent en oiseau ou en bêtes
diverses. Les Mexicains en firent grand cas pendant sa vie, à cause de sa
force et de son adresse. Après sa mort ils lui rendirent les honneurs d'un
dieu et lui sacrifièrent des esclaves en offrande. Ils étudiaient choisir pour
cela des hommes grassouillets, et ils prenaient soin, pour mieux honorer cette
divinité, d'orner les victimes des oreillons et des mentonnières dont ils
faisaient habituellement usage. Il y eut un autre dieu semblable, nommé
Camaxtle, dans la république de Tlaxcala.
In fact, in Codex Telleriano-Remensis he is depicted as a giant. The Maya rain god Chac, also was a giant. For the moment we do not know the relation or link between Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli.
(6) Cuauhcóatl or Quauhcóatl, was the first 'teomama' or bearer of bones (or relics) of Huitzilopochtli, at the time of their departure in Aztlán-Colhuacán in the year 1 Tecpatl (Silex), or 1064. When the Aztecs came to Chapultepec in the year 11 Tochtli (Rabbit), or 1283, there was also a man called Quauhcóatl. In the year 3 Tochtli, or 1326, there was again a Quauhcóatl, this time in connection with Colhuacán.
After Siméon (1885:364) we have : Quauhcóatl, s. Chef envoyé par Quinatzin à la recherche d'un emplacement pour une ville (Bétancourt). RR. Quauhtli, cóatl. Quauhtli means 'eagle' or 'tree, wood, forest', depending upon the pronounciation. Quauhcóatl seems to be a 'minister' title, after Chimalpahin (1889:195).
(7) Aztlán means 'whiteness' after Durán. We saw a meters high white band, that marks the high water level on the shores of Lake Powell, the Colorado and the San Juan River. Is this the explanation of the 'blancura' of Durán? We do not think so. Durán (1967:28.8) says also :
" ... de una tierra donde habían habitado que llamaban Aztlán, que quiere
decir 'blancura', o 'lugar de garzas', y así les llamaban a estas naciones
azteca, que quiere decir 'la gente de la blancura'.Other meanings of
Aztlán are the following :
Codex Ramirez (1985:18) gives for Aztlán the meaning of 'place of herons'. On an incorrect copy of the Mapa de Sigüenza, which is a map with the migration path of the Aztecs, we indeed find the head of a bird (heron ?) as topoglyph for Aztlán. By the fact self that there is such a topoglyph, we can be sure that Aztlán was not a mythical but a real region ! It is impossible for us to locate Aztlán only by studying the name, because all over the U.S.A. and Mexico there are places were herons can live along the rivers. We are only sure that Aztlán was located near a water body. In the Nahuatl-French dictionary of Siméon (1885:45) we find the following information :
- Aztlan ville, primitivement occupée par les Aztèques, et dont la
position, objet de nombreuses recherches, est encore ignorée. On la place
généralement au nord du Golfe de Californie (Clavijero). - Aztatl s; Héron,
aigrette; au fig. Tlacotonililli yaztauh, ymecaxicol, libre, excempt,
indépendant. N.d.l.R.: aigrette = Quachichiquille; which means that we
must have in fact Aztatl + tlan = Aztatlan instead of Aztlán. Meaby Aztlán is
simply an abbreviation.
Tezozomoc (1949:22) gives the meaning of 'habitat of the herons' for the twin name Aztlan Aztatlan. We know several places called Aztlán or Aztatlan :
a/ There is an Aztalan (not Aztatlan) near Lake Michigan in the north of the
United States of America.
b/ Strange enough, Chimalpahin (6-7:222) gives an Aztatlan in relation to Teocolhuacan, at the beginning of the colonial period :
'12 Tochtli 1530. Comme on se rendait à Teocolhuacan, Don Andres
Motelchiuhtzin, juge interprête, mourut dans le lieu appelé Aztatlan; il se
baignait lorsqu'il fut blessé par un Chichimèque, et revenait pour gouverner
Tenochtitlan comme prince, ...'
c/ Cesar Macazaga Ordoño gives in his 'Nombres geográficos de México' (1979:31) the following information :
'ATASTA, Aztatla(n), Localización:
(1) Pueblo del Partido del Centro, Estado de Tabasco.
(2) San José Atasta, hacienda del partido y municipal del Carmen, Estado de Campeche.
(3) Laguna de la costa occidental del Partido del Carmen, Estado de Campeche
AZTA-TLA: aztatl, garza; tla-, - posposición que indica abundancia : 'lugar donde abundan las garzas' AZTATLAN es sinónimo de Aztlan.'
In the Historia Tolteca Chichimeca (1976:255 and 259) Aztatlan is located near Coaixtlahuacan, in the Mixtec region, indicated on 2 maps.
d/ W. Jimenez Moreno thinks that Aztatlan, near Mexcatitlan, on the coast of Nayarit, is in fact ancient Aztlan.
e/ On an old map (without references) we find Aztatlan indicated near Culiacan in the State of SONORA (Mexico).
(8) According to Chimalpahin (6-7:325), Colhuacán or Culhuacán means 'place where the ancestors (Colhua) are.' In fact we must translate this better with 'residence of the ancestors'. The name refers to the original residence in the United States of America, the homeland of the Colhua's and Aztecs. Later, during their migration they named several towns Colhuacán in memory of the past. The first Colhuacán was also named Teocolhuacán, holy Colhuacán, in reference to the place of origin of their tribal god Huitzilopochtli.
But we may also translate it as 'bent or bended residence' because the verb Coliui means 'bending forwards, can no longer walk straight up', which not applies only to old people, but also to a wall or construction. Hence the name of Colli or Culli for an old man or an ancestor. Hence also the name of Colotl or Culutl, scorpion, beacuse of his bended, venom tail.
Durán gives thus the translation 'bended hill' for Colhuacan, and so is the topoglyph depicted in the pictorial manuscripts. Suddenly we understood this description concerned a 'cliff dwelling' somewhere north of Nuevo México, in the Pueblo or Anasazi region in the southwest of the United States of America ! Please consult the following chpters for further details.
(9) Durán (1967 II:18) gives another indication for the existence of caves in Aztlán :
28. - Pero, porque la noticia que tengo de su origen y principio no es
más, ni ellos saben dar más relación, sino desde aquellas 7 cuevas donde
habitaron tan largo tiempo, las cuales desampararon para venir a busar esta
tierra, unos primeros, otros despuès, hasta dejarlas desiertas... Estas cuevas
son Teoculhuacan, que por otro nombre, se llama Aztlán, tierra de que todo
tenemos noticia caer hacia la parte del norte y Tierra Firme, con la
The repeated mention of mountains with caves and holes as habitations for the ancestors is an important geographic indication for the localisation of Aztlán, as we will understand from the discussion of the Vollemaere-expeditions of 1992, 1993, and 1997. Indeed, there are in the south cliffs of the Wilson Mesa (for us = center of Aztlán region), at the confluence of the Colorado River and the San Juan River (the highwaterways of pre-Columbian times), holes, caves and alcoves suitable for (ancient) habitation.
We may put that all the tribes, all the inhabitans of Aztlán, were Aztecs, regardless of their ethnic origin. In ethnohistorical sources we sometimes find twin names with as second name a specification of origin : (azteca), azteca mexica, azteca chichimeca, nahuatlaca, azteca colhuaca, azteca chicomoztoca, etc. According to an Aztecan legend the name of Mexitin was given by Huitzilopochtli (Chimalpahin). From that moment on a fine feather became the symbol of the Azteca Mexica.
(10) Siméon says the following about huauhtli: Uauhtli of Huauhtli, s. Graine de la blette uauhquilitl, que les Mexicains ne mangeaient guêre que dans les temps de famine; ils lui préféraient le maîs; uauhtli polocayo (Sahagún), graine non émondée.
(11) Siméon says the following about teonacatzli : Teonacaztli, s. Plante dont la fleur jaune est belle et très-odorante; elle servait comme arome dans la boisson de cacao (Sahagún). RR. teotl, nacaztli.
(12) There have been many TULA's. From Tula in the State Hidalgo to Tollan-Cuitlahuac, Tollan-Chollolan and Tollan-Teotihuacan. This latter is the historical site of Tollan to which the majority of Mesoamerican peoples refers. We presume there has been a Tula in the Southwest of the USA. Historia Tolteca Chichimeca (1976:138 note 2) accounts :
La presencia de estos nonoualca que salieron de Tollan se asentaron en Teouacan se manifiesta por otra parte en los toponímicos registrados en el 'Libro de tributos de Tehuacan', año 1635 (microfilm de la Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia, serie Benjamin Franklin, rollo 13), donde aparecen Santa Mar¡í nativitas Nonoalco:
Tollan Tloquentlan, Tollan Nonohualco, Tollan Tlacochcalco, Tollan Tepepolco, Tollan Tecoloc, Santiago Miaguatlan Tollan, Tollan Tlacuillocan, Tollan Cocolco Atempan y Tollan Mihuacan, todos sitios habitados, sujetos a Teouacan.
(13) There have been numerous sites named COATEPEC. There was Coatepec in the vicinity of TEXCOCO (Siméon), but however Coatepec, 'On the Mount of Serpents', might refer to the pyramid of serpents of QUETZALCOATL in the Ciudadela of Tollan-Teotihuacan.
(14) Nahuatl, the Aztec language, is one of the Uto-Aztecan languages, spoken from Utah to Nicaragua.
(15) Coatlicue, Huitzilopochtli's virgin mother, became goddess of the flowers. Her temple, called TOPICO, had been erected in Mexico. The festivities in her honor, were held during the month TOZOZTONTLI (Clavijero). Coatlicue means 'skirt of serpents'.
(16) When analyzing the geography and geology of the Southwest of the USA, we came to the conclusion that the shifting sand, the key element in the account of Moctezuma's expedition, appears to be quicksand, such as it is found near the cliff dwellings in Canyon de Chelly. Hence our decision to locate here the historic Aztec site of COLHUACAN.
(17) Siméon (1885:98-99) says :
- Magistrat suprême qui jugeait en dernier ressort et dont le pouvoir
égalait presque celui du souverain. Aussi l'a-t-on assimilé à un vice-roi ou
lieutenant. Rév. Ciuacoatzintli. RR. Ciuatl, Coatl.
Ciuacoatl, s. 'femme serpent', déesse appelée aussi QUILAZTLI, mêre du
genre humain. Elle enfantait toujours 2 jumeaux. Le roi Itzcoatl lui fit
élever un temple (Clavijero)
- Magistrat suprême qui jugeait en dernier ressort et dont le pouvoir égalait presque celui du souverain. Aussi l'a-t-on assimilé à un vice-roi ou lieutenant. Rév. Ciuacoatzintli. RR. Ciuatl, Coatl.
One can put that a CIiuacóatl is the highest magistrate in a kind of Aztec Supreme Court of Appeal.
(18) Codex Mendoza gives a list of all founders of Tenochtitlan (2 Calli, 1325) : Tezcatetl, Acacitl, Ocelopan, Ahatl, Xomimitl, Ahuexotl, Huictoh, Tenoch. The latter was leader of the Mexicans from 1299 to 1363 A.D. After his death there was a gap in rulership of 3 years. Clavijero (1971:74) tells us there were 20 founders.
(19) According to Clavijero, Axolohua would be one of the (20) Aztec rulers who founded Tenochtitlan.
(20) Here we have a reference to a diet problem.
(21) The priests never washed themselves during the periods of abstinence, a habit that gave them a very bad smell. They became very dirty and ugly.
(22) We have indeed the following Aztec kings :
(23) Motecuhzoma I has extended enormously the influence of the Aztecs by conquering many towns and provinces. He was the first king who reached the Maya regions of Tabasco and Guatemala. He was in fact the first emperor of the Mexicans. After the wars he became very interested in his past and origin.
(24) The distance of 300 leguas is far enough to wear out a pair of sandals. The 10 and 8 days for the whole trip forth and back are not realistic. Maybe there is an error here in the nahuatl translation of the old pictorial document.
(25) This is a fantastic intermezzo, a story about a mountain of eternal youth. It is yet not clear why the story teller has put this fragment in the description of the expedition. In fact people died as well, but the name of important people was sometimes taken over by the priests so that the name never 'died'. We hope to make a study of this fragment in the future.
(26) In fact, the 'braguero' is the loincloth or maxtli of the Mexican.
(27) About 60 sorcerers and wizards set off to search for Chicomoztoc, quite an army. It appears they were all old men, which must have been a severe handicap when undertaking such a long journey of more than 3000 km. Only 40 of them managed to return to Tenochtitlán, 2/7 (almost 1/3) died.
(28) 1 legua = 5572 m = 3 millas; 300 leguas would correspond to about 1700 km, which inevitably leads us to the South of the USA. A march to this area would take about 85 days of 20 km/day, meaning 10 times the given duration. If we believe the stories about the Tarahumara's about their marathon of 190 km in five days, then we must also believe that they needed only 10 days for 1700 km. This is only possible by waterways. We believe some manuscript must have been misinterpreted.
(29) Finally, these products are not so different from those manufactured in the Valley of Mexico.