The Aztec EmpireThe Journal of Phillip RamirezPhillip Ramirez2/24/2011Period 5 HWL <br />May 16th, 1180 <br />Somewhere in Central Mexico<br />The heat here is insufferable. I can barely imagine how these people live in this jungle. I have been amongst the Mexicas, the original Aztec tribe, for a week now. We have crossed at least 50 miles of deep jungle. The men at the front have to hack through the vines, branches, and god knows what else to get through. They are followed by the children and the elderly, the women, and another group of men in the rear.<br />3181350236220I have been observing the landscape for the past three days. I have seen the jungle, mostly flat except for river valleys, and nothing else. It is like the jungle is its own world. It has its own sounds, smells, and animals. However, that is not the most exciting thing to be found here.<br />The Mexica are by far the most interesting people I have ever met. They speak a strange tongue (Aztec I suppose) and have strange customs. The food, which looks disgusting, is a concoction of the different plants I have never seen. Nevertheless, the most interesting part of the people is their eyes. Not the eyes themselves, but what can be seen in them: the perseverance, the strength, and wanting to make something of their own.<br />September 26, 1325 <br />The Banks of Lake Texcoco<br />336232597790I was awoken to the sound of a young man yelling. I peered out of my measly mosquito net and was startled by hundreds of people running toward the lake.<br />“What is it?” I inquired to anyone who would listen.<br />“It is a sign from the gods,” said a woman who was running past. “We have found the place we were looking for at last.”<br />I quickly got up and went toward the lake with the crowd. I pushed my way to the water’s edge and to see the sign, if there was one. There, on a small island in the middle of the lake, I saw what everyone was looking at. There was an eagle eating a snake on a cactus in the middle of the island. <br />“What does that sign mean?” I asked. That was a mistake.<br />Everyone who heard looked at me in astonishment. <br />“What does that sing mean? How can you not know?” replied one Aztec man. “Are you even a real Aztec?”<br />“Yes, of course I am an Aztec,” I replied. However, it was too late. Several large men had all ready jumped toward me and were throwing punches in my direction, thinking I was an enemy spy. I looked toward the crowd for help but none came.<br />“Stop that immediately!” said a strong, powerful voice. The crowd parted and I was greeted with the site of a boy, no more than 17 years old. “This is not how we Aztecs act.” <br />The men immediately stepped down. The young boy helped me up.<br />“My name is Acamapichtili. What is your name?”<br />“My name is Phillip, Phillip Ramirez.”<br />“Well Phillip, let us go to my tent and talk.” So we set off to the tent. “By the way Phillip, that sign, it means that we Aztec have finally found a place to call home.”<br />February 02, 1350<br />Tenochtitlan, on Lake Texcoco<br />47625381000It is amazing to me how far the Aztecs have come in just fifty years. From wandering in the jungle to building a city on a lake is an amazing feat. Yes, I said building a city on a lake. The sign from the gods forced the Aztecs to build in the center of the lake. Despite the challenges, the Aztecs went to work immediately. <br />Nowadays, I can walk around the city with my friend, Prince Acamapichtili, and see the wonderful building and architecture. The bridges connecting the city to the mainland are still under construction, as are the canals and some of the city streets. The Aztec’s knowledge of science and mathematics, although primitive, has led the way to these marvelous feats of architecture. The longest bridge, which also acts like a dike to separate salt water and fresh water, is just about one mile long. <br />3495675492125“How do you like our city, my friend?” asked Prince Acamapichtili. Acamapichtili was indeed a prince, something I had learned on one of the first days I meet him. He was destined to rule the Aztec people.<br />“I think you and your people have done a beautiful job,” I said. “It is amazing that you can build such a large city with only a small area of land.<br />“It’s all about the chinampas. It is a brilliant system that literally anchors our city to the bottom of the lake. Would you like to see one?”<br />“Yes, of course I would like to see one.”<br />The wonders of the Aztec people never cease. <br />January 31, 1376<br />Walled Square, Tenochtitlan<br />38100569595Amidst a crowd of thousands I watched the beginning of a new era. Up on the top of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, Prince Acamapichtili was just crowned emperor of the Aztec people. Everyone in the crowd knew that things were going to change. The Aztecs would no longer be suppressed by the powers that had ruled them for centuries. They were going to rise up and create a power of their own. <br />“Acamapichtili, Acamapichtili, Acamapichtili,” we all shouted in unison. Eventually, the crowd was quiet enough for Acamapichtili to speak.<br />“My friends,” he said,” this is a new beginning for all the people of the land. We will no longer be a third-rate power in this land. We will be heard. The gods have blessed us with this beautiful city, prosperous land, and hard working people. With these blessings we are invincible. We wandered in the jungle for 150 years. We built a city on a lake. No man in this entire land can say that the Aztecs are feeble. Together, we can do anything!” <br />As I watched, I thought to myself that Acamapichtili would bring about change. Under his leadership, the Aztecs could do anything. <br />June 11th, 1431<br />The City of Texcoco<br />381009779045910501583690During the past three years the Aztecs fought a great war against their longtime allies, the Tepaneca. From what I could gather, the Tepaneca assassinated the Aztec emperor Chimalpopoca. Despite the harsh struggle, the Aztecs were victorious and formed a treaty with the Tepaneca and the Acolhua, another powerful tribe in the area. The treaty, called the Triple Alliance, made the Aztecs the most powerful force in central Mexico. After the treaty was signed, the people in attendance began a long celebration for the occasion.<br />“Would you like to have a drink?” asked one Aztec noble sitting next to me.<br />“Yes, sure. What do you have?” I responded.<br />Well, we have a rich, chocolate drink with a hint of pepper and another drink made from maize. I prefer the chocolate one myself.”<br />“Then, chocolate it is.”<br />As the man went to fetch me my drink, I began looking at all the wonderful foods at the table. There were several varieties of bird with different sauces, rabbits with maize and squash, and an animal that resembled a pig. I picked up a bit of meat from the bird that was closest to me and tried it. It tasted horrible. I really don’t know how these people can eat this stuff. The chocolate drink was a different story.<br />“Here you are,” said the noble upon his return. “I hope you like it. I made it myself.”<br />Slowly I lifted it to my lips and drank. It was wonderful. The flavor from the chocolate and the peppers mixed perfectly. <br />“This taste delicious,” I said. “I could spend my whole life drinking this.”<br /> October 19th, 1453<br />Tenochtitlan<br />392430064770Life has been hard for the Aztecs this year. A series of floods breached a dike and flooded half of the city. The stagnant water also bred mosquitoes, which brought a bad epidemic of malaria upon the people. I am the only one who knows that the sickness was from bugs and not from the gods. I see people sacrificing everything they own at the temples so the gods will keep them safe. <br />38100790575Despite the failure of one of the dikes, the engineering of the others was solid and impressive. Even when the waters rushed into the city, the dikes that didn’t break held tremendously well. The engineers’ planning and construction probably saved the city from being submerged. The dikes gave me a newfound respect for ancient architecture.<br />Even though the times are hard, I have seen progress in the way of culture. The astronomers of Tenochtitlan proudly displayed their newly created calendar in the city square. The calendar itself is actually two separate calendars with different day and months. One is used for agriculture while the other is used for special celebrations and events. The design is also very complex, with geometric shapes representing the gods and the constellations. <br />The dikes and the calendar both have forced me to rethink how I view all the ancient peoples.<br />December 25th, 1487<br />The Great Temple, Tenochtitlan<br />The Great Temple or, as the Aztecs call it, Templo Mayor was alive with light and wonder. Most of the population of Tenochtitlan had turned out for the dedication of the Grand Temple. The priest were at the top performing elaborate ceremonies and the people were below parting happily, drinking their chocolate and maize drinks, the latter of which I now believe to be a type of alcohol. I kept my distance from the food but gladly accepted some chocolate from a woman who seemed to be serving the drinks.<br />Later in the night, the slaves were led up the temple steps to greet their fate. All the nobles were called to witness the final act of offerings, so I, having never seen a human sacrifice, asked a noble if I could tag along.<br />4305300314325“Sure,” he said. “So you have really never seen a human sacrifice?”<br />-3810068580“Well, I have, just not the Aztec version,” I lied. I remembered the last time I was called out and did not want a repeat of that incident.<br />We arrived at the top of the temple and took our respective places. I sat next to the noble I came up with. We happened to have a front-row seat. The slaves were led out of a chamber in the pyramid. The first one came up and four priests immediately grabbed his limbs. They brought him to the altar, the slave still yelling for mercy, and laid him there. The main priest began chanting a ceremonial song. Then, he lifted up his knife, the torch light illuminating the blade, and thrust it into the chest of the slave. Slowly he cut, the blood spurting everywhere, until there was ample room for the priest to lift the man’s heart out. He held it up in the torch light and shouted to the gods. Then the body was disposed of and the next slave was brought up.<br />The moment I saw the man’s heart, I was sick. Some of the blood squirted on me, which did not help matters. I left my seat and began vomiting in a corner. However, I couldn’t leave, as it would be in bad taste. A great way to spend Christmas, I thought to myself as I threw up. <br />April 10th, 1518<br />Palace of Montezuma II<br />889046355Montezuma’s palace was in a state of constant feasting and celebration. Everyday a new meal came, some of which I had grown to like. There were dancers and magicians, sorcerers and acrobats. Montezuma himself sat at the head of the table, enjoying the time with his friends and family. I had had an honored place at the table since I had first meet Montezuma during the dedication of the Great Temple. Yes, he had been the one that led me up the stairs and had given me a seat next to him. He was also the one that helped me descend the temple steps after I had vomited all over the temple floor. <br />Those days were behind us now and I had come to know him as a great friend. When Montezuma became king he in 1502, he ushered in a new era of prosperity. He remodeled Tenochtitlan, making it better and more attractive, yet still keeping the people happy by bringing in new products for the markets and widening the roads. He had also strengthened the Aztec Army and had expanded their borders in the south. Montezuma had ushered in the golden age of the Aztec Empire.<br />296227532385“My lord,” asked one of Montezuma’s nobles, “what do you intend to do about the people’s belief that destruction is coming?”<br />“Oh, not that comet thing again,” Montezuma replied. “How many times do I have to say it, the comet means nothing. The Aztecs are the most powerful empire on the face of the planet. Only the gods themselves can destroy us.”<br />It is ironic that he thinks that, I thought. Unfortunately, the gods themselves would come in less than a year and bring about the destruction of the Aztecs. Even worse, I could only sit and watch it happen.<br />March 4th, 1519<br />Coast of the Yucatan Peninsula<br />I hid in the bushes as I watched eleven Spanish galleons dropped anchor off the coast. Six small boats brought 30 men and their leader to the shore. The natives, who were also watching the proceedings, emerged from the bushes to greet the newcomers. They gave the leader gold and silver jewelry to decorate the man who they believed to be a god. Neither party knew of my presence in bushes farther off. <br />2672715465455During the proceedings, more Spanish troops came ashore. They brought 13 horses and a small number of cannon. The natives looked in awe at the horses, thinking that they were magical beasts from the gods. The cannon also amazed the people, with their iron glittering in the sunlight. Even more amazing to the natives were the breastplates and weapons of the Spanish. It was a shame that these natives would soon be experiencing the weapons first hand.<br />As the sun shone brightly, more and more soldiers came ashore. The crisp, blue water rippled as the paddles hit it. The wind blew slowly from the sea, making the capes of the Spanish invaders flow like colorful birds. It was a beautiful day and a day fitting for such an occasion. The conqueror of the Aztec people had just made landfall. His name was Hernando Cortes.<br />July 2nd, 1520<br />Northern Causeway, Tenochtitlan<br />2486025188595After his landing, Hernando Cortes was brought before Emperor Montezuma, as was the fashion for greeting foreign dignitaries. I was present at the proceedings and Cortes was presented with even more gold because Montezuma believed he was a god. For two years Cortes wandered the area between Tenochtitlan and the coast while more Spanish men arrived. He eventually returned to Tenochtitlan with several hundred men, both native and Spanish. <br />One week ago, Cortes stormed the palace and took Montezuma hostage. Being outside the palace at the time, I ran to see what the commotion was all about. The Aztec army had surrounded the palace and was eagerly awaiting the release of their king. The negotiations lasted until yesterday morning when the Aztecs brought Cortes several large chests of jewels and gold. Cortes then released Montezuma but remained in the palace until that night.<br />-47625354965Suspecting that the Aztec army was asleep, he moved his troops and his treasure out of the palace and through the city to the Northern causeway. I watched all this from a house right by the Northern causeway. When the Spanish finally reached the bridge, the Aztec troops moved in with a ferocious roar. They surrounded the Spanish and began to butcher them as they crossed the bridge.<br />Cortes and two hundred of his six hundred men escaped and the Aztecs claimed victory that night. Today, there are rumors that Cortes has allied with the Tlaxcalans, the enemies of the Aztecs, and is attempting to begin a siege of Tenochtitlan. Hearing the rumors, I traveled back to the palace and began to collect my belongings, preparing for the speedy escape I would have to make to save my life.<br />August 13, 1521<br />The Banks of Lake Texcoco<br />Cortes was ruthless. Despite his defeat, he and his native allies began a siege of Tenochtitlan that lasted for months. The Aztecs held out valiantly but even the new emperor, Emperor Cuauhtémoc, knew all was lost.<br />271462581915“Cuauhtémoc,” I pleaded, “let me take 50 women and children out of the city when it is breached so I you can preserve your culture.”<br />“No!” he shouted with authority, “we will all stand and fight, men, women, and children alike.”<br />Once an emperor has spoken, he has made up his mind so I decided not to plead the case any further. That night, the Spanish and their allies broke through the defenses of the causeway and swept into the city. They began to burn and pillage and killed soldiers and civilians alike. Tenochtitlan was lost to the Spanish. However, I wasn’t ready to lose just yet.<br />I had secretly prepared a boat to take me to the shore when the Spanish broke through. As I was leaving I spotted a young family, a mother, father and two children, hiding in the shadows.<br />-19050665480“Come here and follow me,” I shouted at them. They obeyed and we all got into the boat and began rowing to the other side of the lake. The Spanish were too busy swarming the city so they did not notice a small boat slipping away in the night. When we reached the other side, we all sighed with relief. <br />“I must leave you know,” I told the family. “You cannot follow me any longer.”<br />“What are we supposed to do then?” asked the father.<br />I was about to responded but a Spanish soldier patrolling the shore spotted us. In less than a second, twenty troops we after us like hunters after their prey.<br />“Run!” I shouted to the family. “Run for your lives and for your people.” They kept running and I split off a different way. The soldiers followed me but I eventually lost them in the jungle. Slowly, I made my way back to the banks of the lake to watch the battle. The sun was just rising now it shone on the ruins of a once great city. The Aztec Empire was truly over.<br /> <br />References<br /><ul><li>"Aztec Timeline." Aztec-History.com. Aztec History, 2006-2011. Web. 20 Feb 2011. <http://www.aztec-history.com/aztec-timeline.html>.
"Aztec History." History of the Aztec Indians. Aztec History, n.d. Web. 20 Feb 2011. <http://www.aztec-history.net/>.