The Aztec Indians The Aztec Indians Tonatiuh has yet to rise from the East and shine upon us all, but already I hear stirs and murmurs coming from the street and even from the apprentice quarters of my own home. It has been an exhausting month for me and I would like nothing better than to sleep all day. However, here in Texcoco, the market only meets once a week and I must sell my goods as soon as possible.(Smith,119). My wife, heavy with child, slowly begins to wake beside me, so I rise to the new day. My name is Tochtli, born to that day some 33 years ago.
I am of the Mexica tribe, born and raised in the sacred capitol city of Tenochtitlan. I am of the pochteca and am proud to serve my gods and lords faithfully in war and sacrifice, as my father did before me. I have been very successful and have been able to provide my wife and two (soon to be three) children a comfortable life. It is wise to say that the god Yacatecuhtli, looks generously upon me and I owe all to him (Smith, 213). Before I am even dressed I can smell my wife and daughter preparing tortillas from the patio.
Being from the highest order of pochteca, my home is larger than most in my calpolli. It is built in a half-moon fashion around a central patio. The structure is made up of four rooms, or quarters: The sleeping quarters of my wife and I, the room my children share, a room for my apprentice and any tlamama I may have under my service at the time, and a small shrine room where my family and I can worship. In the patio, the tlamama, my apprentice and my son eat a breakfast of tortillas before we head to the market. I had just returned the night before from a most successful, but long trade expedition.
I had set out a little over a month ago, along with two other pochteca from my guild, two of our apprentices, and four tlamama who are professional porters. I was worried to leave on such a long expedition when my wife was so close to bearing our third child, but after consulting with the calendar and the priests of my patron god, Yacatecuhtli, it was determined that the day we left on was surely the luckiest (Smith,256). Besides that, my son, Ocelotl, is now nine and almost old enough to guard the household. We left loaded with cloth, jewels and spinning tools and set out for Acolman, where we traded the bulk of our goods for slaves. In these other cities, markets meet weekly or only periodically, so it was important to time our route well. From Acolman we set out for Pachuca where we planned to trade the remainder of our goods for some of the obsidian tools that the region is renowned for (Smith, 87).
That was the most dangerous part of our journey because of its length, the size of our payload and how close our path came toward enemy territory outside of the triple alliance. Pochteca are generally allowed free travel throughout the world, enemy or friendly without harm (Smith, 122). In my time I have traveled throughout the far reaches of this land, but I am still wary of enemy territory, and always travel well armed and ready for battle. After a rest in Pachuca, where we bartered for the obsidian, we began our long journey home. We finally reached Texcoco early yesterday morning, but camped outside the city until nightfall.
Upon returning from any expedition, pochteca always enter the city under the cloak of darkness. We then quickly unload our goods from the canoes, so that it is all hidden in our homes by daybreak (Smith, 121). This has been a practice as old as the guild itself. It is very useful since it is wise to keep the success of ones expedition a secret. Pochteca, no matter how successful, are not nobles and not allowed to display such wealth openly (Smith,121).
To do so might offend our lords, and hence our gods. I agreed to keep the obsidian and two of the tlamama at my home for the night, while my partner kept the slaves at his home. My wife, Calli, calls for me to eat before I must leave for the market. She hands me warm tortillas and smiles at me lovingly. I admire the roundness of her belly, and only then do I realize how much I have missed her. Teteoinnan, the mother of gods, has truly blessed me with a wife both fertile and beautiful. As the tlamama, my apprentice and my son load up for the market, I kiss my wife and daughter good-bye before setting out.
They will spend most of the day purifying the home in anticipation of the coming baby. As I left, my wife was already sweeping our house clean of evil spirits. She also tells me that she is going to make tamales and sauce to take to the temples as an offering for my successful and safe trip. My daughter, the beautiful Xochitl, will no doubt continue the weaving she has been working on, she has become quite talented and will make a fine wife (Smith, 141)! The sun breaks as we start out for the market in the center of the city. My son and I walk ahead of the tlamama, with my apprentice in the rear.
We dress in the modest clothing of the pochteca. My son begs for stories of my most recent expedition, his eyes wide and thirsty as I recall foreign cities and rugged country. He squeezes every detail out of me. I cant help but smile at his exuberance, after all I was no different when my father would return from his journeys. It shocks me how much the boy has grown in just the last month.
Soon he will be ten years old and of school age. You can imagine the pride I felt when I learned that he will be attending the calmecac of Texcoco. When I was a boy back in Tenochtitlan, I attended one of the cities many telpochcalli. It was there, living under spartan conditions, that I was trained in the song and dance of rituals. We also aided on construction of temples and were trained in the art of war (Smith,137).
I can still remember my first time in battle as a novice warrior. Many a god was appeased with the sacrifice of the captives we returned with on that day! Yet, there will be an even brighter future for my son. His intelligence and strength has not gone unnoticed in the city. The calmecac is a school for nobles and only the most exceptional commoners. There he will train in the temples, under the tutelage of only the wisest priests (Smith,138). He will be trained for a future in government, or priesthood, or military! Working under priests will no doubt teach him the self-discipline, obedience and control that the gods look most favorably upon.
As we enter the market, I once again admire the grandeur of it all. I think only those who have traveled can truly appreciate the spectacle of the Texcoco market, the second largest in the empire. Thousands upon thousands gather to barter or sell their goods. In the vast plaza, vendors set-up countless stalls in streets according to their goods. One vast street holds any type of game or dog a person could eat ( and more stench than a person should bear). Another consists of herbs and medicines, while yet another sells food and drink (Smith, 116).
This is all done under the watchful eyes of the gods whose images can be seen everywhere, inspecting and guarding. Almost every artisan and merchant has a patron god. I meet with my partners where we agree to split-up with my partners handling the slaves and me the obsidian and other goods. We agree to meet later and divide the profits. Along with my son and my apprentice I go about my business, already knowing which nobles or wealthy merchants were interested in my expensive goods.
Although I am always open to barter, today I look to sell much of the goods for money in the form of cacao beans or quachtli (Smith,124). Some of the obsidian tools I have are easily worth five quachtli each. The market place swirls with conversation of all sorts. Haggling here …