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In classical Aztec mythology and among present-day Nahuas, Tonantzin (Classical Nahuatl: Tonāntzin [toˈnáːn.tsin])[1] is the name of an Aztec mother goddess, possibly Mother Earth.


Such Goddesses as "Mother Earth", the "Goddess of Sustenance", "Honored Grandmother", "Snake", "Bringer of Maize" and "Mother of Corn" can all be called Tonantzin, as it is an honorific title comparable to "Our Lady" or "Our Great Mother". Other indigenous (Nahuatl) names include Chicōmexōchitl [tʃikˌoːmeˈʃóːtʃitɬ] (literally "Seven Flower") and Chālchiuhcihuātl [ˌtʃaːɬtʃiʍˈsíwaːtɬ] (literally "Emerald/Jade Woman"). A "Tonāntzin" was honored during the movable feast of Xōchilhuitl [ʃoːˈtʃíɬwitɬ]. Some have claimed that upon the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the hill of Tepeyac where Tonantzin's temple had been destroyed by the Spanish priests, the natives recognized Our Lady of Guadalupe as Tonantzin.

Alleged syncretism[edit]

Mexico City's 17th-century Basilica of Guadalupe—built in honor of the Blessed Virgin and perhaps Mexico's most important religious building—was constructed at the base of the hill of Tepeyac, believed to be a site used for pre-Columbian worship of Tonantzin. It has been asserted that the word Guadalupe in this appellation may derive from Coatlaxopeuh, meaning “the one who crushes the serpent”, and perhaps referring to Quetzalcoatl. This theory is evidenced by Genesis 3:15 which states "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" in which God is addressing the serpent who tricked Adam and Eve. Many biblical scholars attribute the fulfillment of this prophecy to Jesus and Mary as the new Adam and the new Eve. This can be seen in the Gospel of John which imitates Genesis in its day-by-day account of God's creation.

Modern usage[edit]

Tonantzin is sometimes used as a female given name; Native Californian actress Tonantzin Carmelo is an example. Tona, Tonzi, Toni, and Nantzin are possible nicknames.

In the comic series Love and Rockets by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez, Tonantzin is the name of a central character in Gilbert's world of Palomar. The character is often linked to the Aztec Goddess.


  1. ^ Composed of to- "our" + nān "mother" + -tzin "(honorific suffix)". When addressing Tonantzin directly, males use the suffixed vocative form Tonāntziné [toˌnaːntsinˈé] while females use the unsuffixed vocative form Tonāntzín [tonaːnˈtsín].
  • González, Ondina E. and Justo L. González, Christianity in Latin America: a history, p. 59, Cambridge University Press, 2008