The Aztecs and the English Language

What do the Aztecs have to do with English? More than you may realize!

Today more than 25 million people consider themselves what most Yanks call Aztecs and what many of themselves refer to as Azteca. There is a popular saying, "It's complicated". It begins with a mythical people from Aztlán. Nobody knows where that is or if it really existed. At the time the history books were being written so little was known that one of the historians lumped all of the pre-Cortéz peoples of central Mexico under one name: Aztec.

More than a century later we know that there were seven peoples who shared a common linguistic origin, Nauhua. For unknown reasons each of these tribes travelled south in search of new land and all settled in the central valley of what is now Mexico.

The Mexica (meh-SHE-kah) arrived last but ultimately rose to become the most powerful of the tribes and together with two of the other peoples formed an alliance to rule over everybody else, exacting tributes from them, and eventually over all of the disparate peoples of the great valley and beyond. With this great wealth they built the incredible city of Tenochtitlan starting on an island in the middle of a lake. The empire's reach touched all of their known world with one of the most expansive trading networks the world had ever seen.

From them Mexico received its name and the world received its language.

You don't have to kill a people to make them disappear; all you have to do is erase them from history. Cortéz did exactly that. The record keepers of Tenochtitlan maintained pictographic records of history, culture, trade - truly an anthropologist's dream. These stunningly beautiful records, hand pointed on deer skin, are documents we refer to as codices. Not a single one of the pre-Cortés "Aztec" codices survived the fires of Cortéz and his henchmen.
Here is a smattering of words you may recognize
coyote, ocelot, tomato, avocado, chia, tamale from Nauhatl (Aztec)
Their extensive trading network also traded words
barbeque, tobacco, potato, guava, hammock, canoe from the Caribbean

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