General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Nov 2017/5 Eagle
Text Size:

Search the Site (type in white box):

Professor Elizabeth Graham

Question for March 2011

Did the Aztecs force you to be who you are? Asked by St Nicholas School. Chosen and answered by Professor Elizabeth Graham.

Members of all Mexica society visited the main market...
Members of all Mexica society visited the main market... (Click on image to enlarge)

Well, you were born into a social class and it was hard but not always impossible to move to another social class (similar to the situation in England for so many years, and to some extent now!). For example, if you came from a family of merchants you were likely to be a merchant, although there would be nothing against you switching to pottery or stone tools if you found a way. But professions such as the artisans who made feather objects or gold jewellery or jade mosaics would have closely guarded their ranks and these professions tended to stay in families. But of course you could rise within those professions. Farmers tended to work the land, although lots of people would have farmed part-time.

This model of Maya social structure before the Conquest in the National Anthropology Museum, Mexico City, could well stand for the Mexica too
This model of Maya social structure before the Conquest in the National Anthropology Museum, Mexico City, could well stand for the Mexica too (Click on image to enlarge)

There were no slaves in the sense that there was no slave class. If you didn’t pay debts or committed a crime you could become a slave. But it was a status that was not passed on and if you could repay your debts, you would escape ‘slave’ status. Remember too that ‘slave’ is our word for this kind of person; they Aztecs may have seen this as a kind of ‘prison sentence outside of prison’ since they didn’t have prisons. There were lots of levels of upper class people, too. If you were a lower class noble woman and married someone above your station, your children would be of higher status than you were, so that’s kind of moving up in the world. Actually you could say that Aztec life wasn’t all that different from life today and there may even have been more opportunities!

Picture sources:-
Photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

Professor Elizabeth Graham has answered 7 questions altogether:

What if an Aztec warrior died or was killed in battle (rather than being taken/taking captive)?

Did the Aztecs force you to be who you are?

Did people get paid for cleaning the city?

Did the Aztecs ever meet the Incas?

Why did the gods destroy the four [previous] worlds if they made them in the first place?

When women went to the market with babies on their backs, did other women ever try to steal them?

What’s the most interesting fact you’ve come across about the Aztecs? (2)

Comment button