General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Nov 2017/5 Eagle
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The Aztecs and dwarfs

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - John Carr: I was wondering how the Aztecs treated newborns, like dwarfs and others born with obvious differences or defects? (Answered/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Stone Olmec altar with two small human figures, Museum of Anthropology, Xalapa, Mexico
Stone Olmec altar with two small human figures, Museum of Anthropology, Xalapa, Mexico (Click on image to enlarge)

‘The importance of dwarves - and hunchbacks, with whom they are often paired - in Mesoamerican religion goes back to the earliest times, when the Olmecs paid special attention to dwarves’ (see picture, depicting two dwarves as skybearers supporting the heavens). For the Maya dwarves were children of rain gods, for the Zapotecs they represented mountain deities, and the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II ‘kept a troop of dwarves to entertain him and sometimes to advise him on matters of state and religion’. Tlaloc, Mexica god of rain, was associated with dwarves, hunchbacks and deformities. ‘Rather than being objects of derision, these individuals are often portrayed with great supernatural powers.’
In general then, if you stood out as being physically different in pre-Hispanic Mexico, you were considered special, and treated with respect and dignity. The price? You were far more likely to be sacrificed as a valuable gift to the gods...

Info from The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion by Mary Miller and Karl Taube, Thames & Hudson, London, 1993.
Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.

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Mexicolore replies: I agree. Yours is a good question. We’ll try to go into this in more depth...