General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 16 Jun 2019/6 Rabbit
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What did the Aztecs call the Spanish invaders?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - J. Faust: What did the Aztecs (or their neighbors) call the Conquistadors? All I could find were Aztec accounts which simply called the Spanish soldiers “soldiers” and their horses “stags,” since horses were new to the Aztecs. Surely they must have had a collective term (or terms) to label the foreign invaders? (Answered by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

‘The coyotes don’t understand our language!’
‘The coyotes don’t understand our language!’ (Click on image to enlarge)

They called them coyotes! This was a term associated with ‘trickster’ in pre-Hispanic folklore - and with an animal that raids and steals by night. It’s also a word that we inherited from the Spanish, who in turn got it from the original Nahuatl word cóyotl. And they called the Spanish language ‘the tongue of the coyotes’ or perhaps better ‘coyote-speak’ (coyoltlahtolli). Apparently the Totonac people referred to the Spanish invaders as ‘snakes’.

Photo of a mural by Antonio González Orozco (detail) at the Hospital de Jesús Nazareno, Mexico City, taken by Eva Sánchez Fernández/Mexicolore.

Go to our Spanish Conquest section

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