Basic Aztec facts: AZTEC FAMILY LIFE
The Spanish Conquistadores were amazed by how well Aztec mums and dads looked after, cared for, brought up and taught their children. You can tell this too from the simple fact that EVERY Mexica child, boy or girl, went to school: the Aztecs were one of the first societies in the world to provide ‘universal education’. Young Aztecs were expected to grow up to be honest, hardworking and respectful...(Written by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)
|Aztec children were believed to be ‘precious gifts from the gods’... (Click on image to enlarge)|
From the moment they were born Aztec children were believed to be precious ‘gifts from the gods’ - and valued accordingly. In fact the party celebrations for the birth of a child went on for four days!
Infants who were still being breast-fed couldn’t be punished or told off, as they were thought to be still attached to the world of the divine.
From the age of 4 children began to learn simple household tasks like fetching water and cleaning. Life was hard and strict - mums and dads were constantly lecturing their children, and if you were naughty or disobeyed, punishments were tough!
|An Aztec feast, from the Florentine Codex (Click on image to enlarge)|
Good manners were a big deal. Children had to eat and drink slowly and politely, not to speak before being spoken to, to wash after eating, to pick up any left-overs - nothing was ever wasted - and NOT to go around with a snotty nose!!
The main family meal, at which everyone squatted round the hearth on reed mats, was in the middle of the day. (For ordinary folk ‘breaky’ came about 10 a.m., after several hours of work, and was usually just a bowl of maize porridge.) If you were lucky you got a hot drink before bed time...
|Eating and talking together was important to the Aztecs... (Click on image to enlarge)|
Experts think that many Aztec families lived in joint households - for example combining the families of two brothers. We know that often between 4 and 7 people lived together under one roof. The man was the head of the household, earning the right to a plot of land when he got married around the age of 20-22, after he’d finished his education (girls married around 16). But women were highly respected, and took on several key jobs such as teacher, doctor, priestess, midwife, matchmaker, scribe, market manager, featherworker...
|Basically EVERYTHING had to be carried by hand in Aztec times... (Click on image to enlarge)|
Mexica children weren’t brought up to think for themselves, but to be fine examples of what their family and community expected them to be and do. One thing that no Aztec family would put up with was slacking! Being lazy or disobedient was severely punished, whether at home or at school (where slackers had their head singed and shaved!) No-one’s sure at what age you went to school, but we know that by 15 all Aztec children were going to one of two free schools: crudely, one for the rich, one for the poor.
|Aztec ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ were a bit like our ‘godparents’ (Click on image to enlarge)|
Every four years, during an Aztec festival dedicated to making plants, crops - and children - grow healthily, mums and dads chose a man and woman (not family, but respected members of the community) to become ’aunt’ and ‘uncle’ to their children. It was their job to be a bit like modern ‘godparents’; they were given gifts in return for their support, and every boy and girl was given both an ‘uncle’ and an ‘aunt’.
|Basket time! (Click on image to enlarge)|
Though they could easily tell the time of day by observing the position of the sun in the sky, each day was marked off in sections by the playing of conch shell trumpets and drums at four key moments: sunrise, mid-morning, noon and sunset. Night time was not only for resting, it was a time to be feared - few ventured out at night, the Aztecs never fought at night, and the superstitious Mexica believed in several night spirits that were definitely bad news. Evening was a time for wrapping up in a blanket on your reed mat bed, enjoying a hot drink, and listening to Grandad telling you stirring stories of brave Aztec warriors conquering new lands...
Here's what others have said:
9 At 8.31am on Tuesday March 22 2016, Brayden wrote:
We are learning about latin american civilizations in World history and this a very informative article and several aspects of Aztec society
8 At 5.56pm on Monday February 29 2016, Pedo Paul wrote:
where is the publisher and when was this recently updated
Mexicolore replies: The publisher is named above (Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)! Sorry, we haven’t got a record of the date it was uploaded to the site.
7 At 11.11am on Thursday June 11 2015, Maila wrote:
Thank you. This really helped me on my research!
6 At 7.49am on Monday May 11 2015, lillian wrote:
5 At 9.19am on Wednesday February 4 2015, Charlotte wrote:
Very helpful, Thanks!
4 At 8.01pm on Thursday December 4 2014, Destiny wrote:
This page was very helpful for my English project.
3 At 2.00pm on Friday September 20 2013, Anna Broughton wrote:
Great article. It helped me out a lot with my Aztec project for school.
2 At 7.16pm on Thursday May 2 2013, Sean Breadmore wrote:
Good information for my aztec project realy helped alot
1 At 4.26pm on Monday July 9 2012, Katia H wrote:
Haha, I guess I was kind of brought up like an Aztec! Great overview of family life and very kid-friendly.