Monday, March 26, 2012

Origin of the Maya and Aztec Tribes

Origin of the Maya  and Aztec Tribes.
Mayan Origins with the god Itzamna
The Mayas did not claim to be autochthones. The Maya legends of their origins referred to their arrival by the sea from the East, in remote times, under the leadership of Itzamna, their hero-god, and also to a less numerous, immigration from the west, from Mexico, which was connected with the history of another hero-god, Kukul Càn.
The first of these appears to be wholly mythical, and but a repetition of the story found among so many American tribes, that their ancestors came from the distant Orient. I have elsewhere explained this to be but a solar or light myth.
The second tradition of the Maya origins deserves more attention from the historian, as it is supported by some of their chronicles and by the testimony of several ]of the most intelligent nativs of the period of the conquest, which I present on a later page of this volume.
It cannot be denied that the Mayas, the Kiches and the Cakchiquels, in their most venerable traditions, claimed to have migrated from the north or west, from some part of the present country of Mexico.
These traditions receive additional importance from the presence on the shores of the Mexican Gulf, on the waters of the river Panuco, north of Vera Cruz, of a prominent branch of the Maya family, the Huastecs. The idea suggests itself that these were the rearguard of a great migration of the Maya family from the north toward the south.
Support is given to this by their dialect, which is most closely akin to that of the Tzendals of Tabasco, the nearest Maya race to the south of them, and also by very ancient traditions of the Aztecs.
It is noteworthy that these two partially civilized races, the Mayas and the Aztecs, though differing radically in language, had legends of their origins which claimed a community of origin in some indefinitely remote past. We find these on the Maya side narrated [in the sacred book of the Kiches, the Popol Vuh, in the Cakchiquel Records of Tecpan Atitlan, and in various pure Maya sources which I bring forward in this volume. The Aztec traditions refer to the Huastecs, and a brief analysis of them will not be out of place.
At a very remote period the Mexicans, under their leader Mecitl, from whom they took their name, arrived in boats at the mouth of the river Panuco, at the place called Panotlan, which name means “where one arrives by sea.” With them were the Olmecs under their leader Olmecatl, the Huastecs, under their leader Huastecatl, the Mixtecs and others. They journeyed together and in friendship southward, down the coast, quite to the volcanoes of Guatemala, thence to Tamoanchan, which is described as the terrestialparadise, and afterwards, some of them at least, northward and eastward, toward the shores of the Gulf.
On this journey the intoxicating beverage made from the maguey, called octli by the Aztecs, cii by the Mayas, and pulque by the Spaniards, was invented by a woman whose name was Mayauel, in which we can scarcely err in recognizing the ]national appellation Maya. Furthermore, the invention is closely related to the history of the Huastecs. Their leader, alone of all the chieftains, drank to excess, and in his drunkenness threw aside his garments and displayed his nakedness. When he grew sober, fear and shame impelled him to collect all those who spoke his language, and leaving the other tribes, he returned to the neighborhood of Panuco and settled there permanently.
The annals of the Aztecs contain frequent allusions to the Huastecs. The most important contest between the two nations took place in the reign of Montezuma the First (1440-1464). The attack was made by the Aztecs, for the alleged reason that the Huastecs had robbed and killed Aztec merchants on their way to the great fairs in Guatemala. The Huastecs are described as numerous, dwelling in walled towns, possessing quantities of maize, beans, feathers and precious stones, and painting their faces. They were sig]nally defeated by the troops of Montezuma, but not reduced to vassalage.
At the time of the Conquest the province of the Huastecs was densely peopled; “none more so under the sun,” remarks the Augustinian friar Nicolas de Witte, who visited it in 1543; but even then he found it almost deserted and covered with ruins, for, a few years previous, the Spaniards had acted towards its natives with customary treachery and cruelty. They had invited all the chiefs to a conference, had enticed them into a large wooden building, and then set fire to it and burned them alive. When this merciless act became known the Huastecs deserted their villages and scattered among the forests and mountains.
These traditions go to show that the belief among the Aztecs was that the tribes of the Maya family came originally from the north or northeast, and were at some remote period closely connected with their own ancestors.