Aztlán (from Nahuatl: Aztlān, /ˈast͡ɬaːn/) is the legendary ancestral home of the Aztec peoples. Aztecah is the Nahuatl word for "people from Aztlan". The place Aztlan is mentioned in several ethnohistorical sources dating form the colonial period, and each of them give different lists of the different tribal groups who participated in the migration from Aztlan to central Mexico, but the Mexica who went on to found Mexico-Tenochtitlan are mentioned in all of the accounts. Historians have speculated about the possible location of Aztlan and tend to place it either in northwestern Mexico or the southwest US, although there are significant doubts about whether the place is purely mythical or represent an historical reality.
Nahuatl legends relate that seven tribes lived in Chicomoztoc, or "the place of the seven caves". Each cave represented a different Nahua group: the Xochimilca, Tlahuica, Acolhua, Tlaxcalan, Tepaneca, Chalca, and Mexica. Because of their common linguistic origin, those groups are called collectively "Nahuatlaca" (Nahua people). These tribes subsequently left the caves and settled "near" Aztlán, or Aztatlan.
The various descriptions of Aztlán apparently contradict each other. While some legends describe Aztlán as a paradise, the Aubin Codex says that the Aztecs were subject to a tyrannical elite called the Azteca Chicomoztoca. Guided by their priest, the Aztec fled, and, on the road, their god Huitzilopochtli forbade them to call themselves Azteca, telling them that they should be known as Mexica. Ironically, scholars of the 19th century—in particular Alexander von Humboldt and William H. Prescott—would name them Aztec. Humboldt's suggestion was widely adopted[by whom?] in the 19th century as a way to distance "modern" Mexicans from pre-conquest Mexicans.
Aztlán plays a slightly less important role in Aztec legendary histories than the migration to Tenochtitlán itself. According to the legend, the southward migration began on May 24, 1064 CE; 1064 is also the year of a volcanic explosion at Sunset Crater in Arizona and the first Aztec solar year, beginning on May 24, after the Crab Nebula events from May to July 1054. Each of the seven groups is credited with founding a different major city-state in Central Mexico. Two city-states reputedly had an Aztec foundation:
- Tepaneca (now Azcapotzalco, a delegación of the Mexican Federal District), and
- Matlatzinca (whose language was Otomian).
These city-states formed during the Late Postclassic period of Mesoamerican chronology (ca. 1300–1521 CE).
According to Aztec legends, the Mexica tribe emigrated last. When they arrived at their new homeland, the present-day Valley of Mexico, all available land had been taken, and they were forced to squat on the edge of Lake Texcoco.
Places postulated as Aztlán
Friar Diego Durán (c. 1537–1588), who chronicled the history of the Aztecs, wrote of Aztec emperor Moctezuma I's attempt to recover the history of the Mexica by congregating warriors and wise men on an expedition to locate Aztlán. According to Durán, the expedition was successful in finding a place that offered characteristics unique to Aztlán. However, his accounts were written shortly after the conquest of Tenochtitlan and before an accurate mapping of the American continent was made; therefore, he was unable to provide a precise location.
There is a lake around Cerro Culiacan, Lake Yuriria, that makes the mountain look very much like an island when photographed from the water, and is similar to the illustration at right.
In 1887, Mexican anthropologist Alfredo Chavero claimed that Aztlán was located on the Pacific coast in the state of Nayarit. While this was disputed by contemporary scholars, it achieved some popular acceptance.
Eduardo Matos Moctezuma presumes Aztlán to be somewhere in the modern-day states of Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Michoacán. Indeed, scholars are all consistent in naming the measures of "150 leagues" from Tenochtitlan that were documented by the Spanish scribes taking notes from conquered Mexica as the distance to the place of origin, coinciding in all ways at Chicomoztoc, "Cerro del Culiacan", which is indeed a humped mountain when seen from the south face.
The meaning of the name Aztlan is uncertain. One suggested meaning is "place of Herons" or "place of egrets"—the explanation given in the Crónica Mexicáyotl—but this is not possible under Nahuatl morphology: "place of egrets" would be Aztatlan. Other proposed derivations include "place of whiteness" and "at the place in the vicinity of tools", sharing the āz- element of words such as teponāztli, "drum" (from tepontli, "log").
Aztlán (Spanish: [aθˈtlan]; American Spanish: [asˈtlan]) is the Spanish language spelling and pronunciation of Nahuatl Aztlān /ˈas.tɬaːn/. The spelling Aztlán and its matching last-syllable stress cannot be Nahuatl, which always stresses words on the second-to-last syllable. The accent mark on the second a added in Spanish marks stress shift (from oxytone to paroxytone), typical of several Nahuatl words when lent into Mexican Spanish.
Use by the Chicano movement
The concept of Aztlán as the place of origin of the pre-Columbian Mexican civilization has become a symbol for various Mexican nationalist and indigenous movements.
The name Aztlán was first taken up by a group of Chicano independence activists led by Oscar Zeta Acosta during the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s. They used the name Aztlán to refer to the lands of Northern Mexico that were sold to the United States as a result of the Mexican-American War. Aztlán became a symbol for mestizo activists who believe they have a legal and primordial right to the land. In order to exercise this right, some members of the Chicano movement propose that a new nation be created, a República del Norte.
Movements that advocate Aztlán
- Mexica Movement
- Brown Berets
- MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, "Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán")
- Nation of Aztlán
- Plan Espiritual de Aztlán
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization, which calls for self-determination for the Chicano nation in Aztlan up to and including the right to secession.
A prominent advocate of Aztlán is Professor Charles Truxillo of the University of New Mexico (UNM), who envisions a sovereign Hispanic nation called the República del Norte (Republic of the North) that would encompass the Northern Mexico, Baja California, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and southern Colorado.
Truxillo states that he does not like the terms 'Hispanic' or 'Latino', saying that they are racist, stating that American society is meant to conquer and divide, and prefers Norteño or Indio-Hispano (literally Indian-Hispanic, a term used by Reies Tijerina, a man whom Truxillo admired).
Truxillo, who teaches at UNM's Chicano Studies Program on a yearly contract, states in an interview that "Native-born American Hispanics feel like strangers in their own land. We remain subordinated. We have a negative image of our own culture, created by the media. Self-loathing is a terrible form of oppression. The long history of oppression and subordination has to end” and that "Along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border “there is a growing fusion, a reviving of connections.... Southwest Chicanos and Norteño Mexicanos are becoming one people again.”" Truxillo stated that Hispanics who have achieved positions of power or otherwise are “enjoying the benefits of assimilation” are most likely to oppose a new nation, explaining that “There will be the negative reaction, the tortured response of someone who thinks, 'Give me a break. I just want to go to Wal-Mart.' But the idea will seep into their consciousness, and cause an internal crisis, a pain of conscience, an internal dialogue as they ask themselves: 'Who am I in this system?”' Truxillo believes that the República del Norte will be brought into existence by "any means necessary" but that it was unlikely to be formed by civil war but rather by the electoral pressure of the future majority Hispanic population in the region. Truxillo added that he believes it's his job to help develop a “cadre of intellectuals” to think about how this new state can become a reality.
In 2007, the UNM reportedly decided to stop renewing Truxillo's yearly contract. Truxillo claimed that his "firing" was due to his radical beliefs, arguing that "Few are in favor of a Chicano professor advocating a Chicano nation state."
In popular culture
- Aztlán has been used as the name of speculative fictional future states that emerge in the southwest U.S. or Mexico after the central U.S. government suffers collapse or major setback; examples appear in such works as the novels Warday (1984), by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka; The Peace War (1984), by Vernor Vinge; The House of the Scorpion (2002), by Nancy Farmer; and World War Z (2006), by Max Brooks; as well as the role-playing game Shadowrun, in which the Mexican government was usurped by the Aztechnology Corporation (1989). In Gary Jennings' novel Aztec (1980), the protagonist resides in Aztlán for a while, later facilitating contact between Aztlán and the Aztec Triple Alliance just before Hernán Cortés' arrival.
- In Michael Flynn's alternate-history story "The Forest of Time" (1987), Colorado is part of a nation-state called Nuevo Aztlán.
- Thomas Pynchon refers to Aztlan as the "mythic ancestral home of the Mexican people" in his novel Against the Day (2006).
- Charles de Lint, in his novel The Painted Boy (2010), refers to the ancestral spirit world as Aztlán.
- The Colombian heavy-metal band Kraken mentions "the old Aztlán" as the place where the Aztek governors (Uey Tlatoani) reside, in the song "Méxica", from its albums Kraken IV: Piel de Cobre and Kraken Filarmónico.
- Los Angeles-based band Ozomatli penned a standout song on 2004's Street Signs in solidarity with the Chicano movement called "Santiago", alluding to Uncle Sam as "Santiago de Aztlán".
- On his 1994 album Graciasland, Mexican-American rock and roll artist El Vez recorded "Aztlan" a version of Paul Simon's "Graceland" with lyrics such as, "For reasons I have explained/I'm not a part of Spain/I'm part of Aztlan."
- Fragmentos de la Obra General Sobre Historia de los Mexicanos, Cristobal del Castillo pages 58-83
- Manuel Aguilar-Moreno Handbook to Life in the Aztec World. page 29.
- Matos Moctezuma (1988, p.38)
- Andrews (2003, p.496)
- Andrews (2003, p. 616)
- Professor Predicts 'Hispanic Homeland', Associated Press (reprinted by Aztlan.net), 2000
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). "Unity Statement". Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- "Mexican aliens seek to retake 'stolen' land". The Washington Times. 16 April 2006. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- Frank Zoretich, 'New Mexico Will Secede to New Nation, Prof Says,' Albuquerque Tribune, 31 Jan. 2000, p. A1.
- How Is America Going To End? Who's most likely to secede? by Josh Levin, Slate.com, August 5, 2009.
- El Republica del Norte -- The Next American Nation by Brent Nelson, The Social Contract Press, Volume 11, Number 1 (Fall 2000)
- Tancredo Praises Cuesta's Book Exposing Hispanic Autonomy Arising From Immigration, Prleap.com (reprinted on Wexico.com), April 30, 2007.
- Chicano Nationalist Professor Fired Despite Student Protests of Censorship by Michelle J. Nealy, DiverseEducation.com, November 20, 2007 (retrieved on December 6, 2010.
- Andrews, J. Richard (2003). Introduction to Classical Nahuatl (revised ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3452-6. OCLC 50090230.
- Clavigero, Francesco Saverio (1807) . The history of Mexico. Collected from Spanish and Mexican historians, from manuscripts, and ancient paintings of the Indians. Illustrated by charts, and other copper plates. To which are added, critical dissertations on the land, the animals, and inhabitants of Mexico, 2 vols. Translated from the original Italian, by Charles Cullen, Esq. (2nd ed.). London: J. Johnson. OCLC 54014738.
- Jáuregui, Jesús (2004). "Mexcaltitán-Aztlán: un nuevo mito". Arqueología mexicana (México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Editorial Raíces) 12 (67): 56–61. ISSN 0188-8218. OCLC 29789840. (Spanish)
- Kunstler, James Howard (2005). The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-888-3. OCLC 57452547.
- Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo (1988). The Great Temple of the Aztecs: Treasures of Tenochtitlan. New Aspects of Antiquity series. Doris Heyden (trans.). New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-39024-X. OCLC 17968786.
- Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317.
- Prescott, William H. (1843). History of the Conquest of Mexico, with a Preliminary View of Ancient Mexican Civilization, and the Life of the Conqueror, Hernando Cortes (online reproduction, Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library). New York: Harper and Brothers. OCLC 2458166.
- Pynchon, Thomas (2006). Against the Day. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 1-59420-120-X. OCLC 71173932.
- Smith, Michael E. (1984). "The Aztlan Migrations of Nahuatl Chronicles: Myth or History?" (PDF online facsimile). Ethnohistory (Columbus, OH: American Society for Ethnohistory) 31 (3): 153–186. doi:10.2307/482619. ISSN 0014-1801. JSTOR 482619. OCLC 145142543.
- Smith, Michael E. (2003). The Aztecs (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23015-7. OCLC 48579073.
- Vollemaere, Antoon Leon (2000). "Chimalma, first lady of the Aztecan migration in 1064" (PDF online publication). Gender and Archaeology Across the Millennia: Long Vistas and Multiple Viewpoints. Sixth Gender and Archaeology Conference, October 6–7, 2000 (online collection of papers presented ed.). Flagstaff: Northern Arizona University, Department of Anthropology and Women's Studies. Retrieved 2007-12-28.
- Wilcox, David R.; and Don D. Fowler (Spring 2002). "The beginnings of anthropological archaeology in the North American Southwest: from Thomas Jefferson to the Pecos Conference" (unpaginated online reproduction by Gale/Cengage Learning). Journal of the Southwest (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, on behalf of The Southwest Center, U. of Arizona) 44 (2): 121–234. ISSN 0894-8410. OCLC 79456398.
- Sanderson, Susana, "Tenotchtitlan and Templo Mayor", California State University, Chico.
- Aztlan Listserv (hosted by the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.)
- League of Revolutionary Struggle, "The Struggle for Chicano Liberation" (an examination of Aztlan and the Chicano national movement from a Marxist point of view)
- Los Angeles artist protesting walls in Berlin, Palestine and Aztlán