A veintena is the Spanish-derived name for a 20-day period used in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican calendars. The division is often casually referred to as a "month", although it is not coordinated with the lunar cycle. The term is most frequently used with respect to the 365-day Aztec calendar, the xiuhpohualli, although 20-day periods are also used in the 365-day Maya calendar (the Mayan tun), as well as by other Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Zapotec and Mixtec.
The name used for these periods in pre-Columbian times is unknown. In Nahuatl, the word for "twenty days" is cempōhualilhuitl /sempoːwalˈilwit͡ɬ/ from the words cempōhualli /sempoːˈwalːi/ "twenty" and ilhuitl /ˈilwit͡ɬ/ "day". Through Spanish usage, the 20-day period of the Aztec calendar has become commonly known as a veintena. The Aztec word for moon is metzli, and this word is today to describe these 20-day periods, although as the sixteenth-century missionary and early ethnographer, Diego Durán explained:
In ancient times the year was composed of eighteen months, and thus it was observed by these Indian people. Since their months were made of no more than twenty days, these were all the days contained in a month, because they were not guided by the moon but by the days; therefore, the year had eighteen months. The days of the year were counted twenty by twenty.
Each 20-day period started on a Cipactli (Crocodile) day of the tonalpohualli for which a festival was held. The eighteen veintena are listed below. The dates in the chart are from the early eyewitnesses, Diego Durán and Bernardino de Sahagún. Each wrote what they learned from Nahua informants. Sahagún's date precedes the Durán's observations by several decades and is believed to be more recent to the Aztec surrender to the Spanish. Both are shown to emphasize the fact that the beginning of the Native new year became non-uniform as a result of an absence of the unifying force of Tenochtitlan after the Mexica defeat.
- "The Nemontemi and the Month Quahuitlehua in the Aztec Solar Calendar". World Digital Library.
- WHP Oregon Nahuatl Dictionary
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