General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 18 Aug 2019/4 Monkey
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Article suitable for older students

Dr. Anastasia Kalyuta

Question for August 2019

What would have happened if you were an orphan: how would you have been brought up and educated? Asked by Bute House Prep School. Chosen and answered by Dr. Anastasia Kalyuta.

Pic 1: ‘The good aunt’, Florentine Codex Book X
Pic 1: ‘The good aunt’, Florentine Codex Book X (Click on image to enlarge)

In this case your uncle or aunt would have assumed complete responsibility for an orphan’s welfare and education. In Book X of the Florentine Codex (a large compendium of data about life in Aztec Mexico compiled by the Franciscan monk Bernardino de Sahagún) the obligations of an uncle to his orphaned nephews and nieces are referred to as follows: ‘The entrusted one, the tutor, the manager, the provider of support - the one who takes charge, who directs’.
The Spanish version of Book X is equally explicit: ‘These natives had the custom of designating the uncle as a guardian and tutor of the children, the estate, his wife (of the deceased person) and of the entire house’.

Pic 2: ‘The great-grandfather’, Florentine Codex Book X
Pic 2: ‘The great-grandfather’, Florentine Codex Book X (Click on image to enlarge)

According to the same source the aunt of an orphaned child had the same obligations, although their description is much shorter. ‘One’s aunt is one who takes charge, the good aunt [pic 1] has her heart full of compassion, of pity towards orphans, she is the ruler of the household, she has love in her heart’. The Aztecs practiced pologyny [a husband could have several wives], they lived in extended families, and usually individual citizens had many siblings and half-siblings as potential guardians and carers of their children.

Pictures:-
Images scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition of the Florentine Codex, Madrid, 1994.

Dr. Anastasia Kalyuta has answered 3 questions altogether:

If someone tried to commit suicide, would they have been punished?

Did the Aztecs invent anything that we still use today?

What would have happened if you were an orphan: how would you have been brought up and educated?

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