Aztlán (from Nahuatl languages: Aztlān, Nahuatl pronunciation: [ˈast͡ɬaːn] (listen)) is the ancestral home of the Aztec peoples. Aztecah is the Nahuatl word for "people from Aztlan". Aztlan is mentioned in several ethnohistorical sources dating from 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 doubts about whether the place is purely mythical or represents a 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, Tlaxcalteca, Tepaneca, Chalca, and Aztec. Because of their common linguistic origin, those groups are called collectively "Nahuatlaca" (Nahua people). These tribes subsequently left the caves and settled "near" Aztlán.
The various descriptions of Aztlán apparently contradict each other. While some legends describe Aztlán as a paradise, the Codex Aubin 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. Scholars of the 19th century—in particular Alexander von Humboldt and William H. Prescott—translated the word Azteca, as is shown in the Aubin Codex to Aztec.
Some say that the southward migration began on May 24, 1064 CE, 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.
A 2004 translation of the Anales de Tlatelolco gives the only date known related to the exit from Aztlan; day-sign "4 Cuauhtli" (Four Eagle) of the year "1 Tecpatl" (Knife) or 1064–1065, and correlated to January 4, 1065.
Places postulated as Aztlán
While Aztlán has many trappings of myth, similar to Tamoanchan, Chicomoztoc, Tollan, and Cibola, archaeologists have nonetheless attempted to identify a geographic place of origin for the Mexica.
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.
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" is 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").
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.
In 1969 the notion of Aztlan was introduced by the poet Alurista (Aberto Baltazar Urista Heredia) at the National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference held in Denver, Colorado by the Crusade for Justice. There he read a poem, which has come to be known as the preamble to El Plan de Aztlan or as "El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan" due to its poetic aesthetic. For Chicanas/os, Aztlan refers to the Mexican territories annexed by the United States as a result of the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848. 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 use or formerly used the concept of Aztlán
- Brown Berets
- MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, "Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán")
- Nation of Aztlán
- Plan Espiritual de Aztlán
- Raza Unida Party
- Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute (U.S.), which demands self-determination for indigenous nations of all countries, as well as the immediate granting of self-determination of internally colonized nations of the US, up to and including secession.
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization, which calls for self-determination for the Chicano nation in Aztlan up to and including the right to secession.
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 Heart of Aztlán (1976), by Rudolfo Anaya; 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.
- Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle set much of their fantasy novel Burning Tower in Aztlán.
- Graham Hancock used Aztlán as a setting in his 2013 fictional novel War God: Night of the Witch.
- Aldéric Au used The Aztlán Protocol as the title for his novel depicting a war between the United States and China and the subsequent peace treaty.
- The concept of Aztlán appears prominently in the beginning of Gloria E. Anzaldúa's Chicanx hybrid essay Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.
- Hunter S. Thompson in his article "Strange Rumblings In Aztlan", about the killing of Los Angeles journalist Ruben Salazar by the Los Angeles Police Department, Rolling Stone magazine, #81, April 29, 1971.
- Aztlàn becomes independent in Harold Convington’s Northwest independence novels in which the nation of Aztlán becomes independent after President Chelsea Clinton agrees to let the Northwest American Republic secede.
- Mexican-American rock band Los Lobos released an album titled Good Morning Aztlán in 2002.
- Mexican-American extreme metal band Brujeria recorded the song "California Uber Aztlán", a cover version of the Dead Kennedys song "California Über Alles" with Spanish lyrics. While "California Über Alles" criticized Governor of California Jerry Brown, "California Uber Aztlán" talks about Governor of California Pete Wilson (referred to as "Pito Wilson") and the Chicano Movement.
- The Mexican band Zoé published in 2018 an album titled "Aztlán" with a song by the same name. It mentions what was the city of Aztlán and even Tenochtitlán.
- University, Sam Houston State. "Page Not Found: 404 – Sam Houston State University". SHSU Online. Archived from the original on 2014-10-18. Retrieved 2016-01-24.
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- Anales de Tlatelolco, Rafael Tena INAH-CONACULTA 2004 p 55
- Fragmentos de la Obra General Sobre Historia de los Mexicanos, Cristobal del Castillo pages 58–83
- Rajagopalan, Angela Herren (2019). Portraying the Aztec Past: The Codices Boturini, Azcatitlan, and Aubin. University of Texas Press. p. 27. ISBN 9781477316078.
- Manuel Aguilar-Moreno Handbook to Life in the Aztec World. page 29.
- Andrews (2003, p.496)
- Andrews (2003, p. 616)
- Professor Predicts 'Hispanic Homeland' Archived 2012-11-07 at the Wayback Machine, Associated Press (reprinted by Aztlan.net), 2000
- Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute (MELI). "Towards a Program of Socialist Pan-Americanism" (PDF). Retrieved 18 August 2014.
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). "Unity Statement". Archived from the original on 5 April 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
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- 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.
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- 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; 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). 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. Archived from the original (PDF online publication) on 2008-04-14. Retrieved 2007-12-28.
- Wilcox, David R.; 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