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What about the quinametzin giants in Aztec mythology?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Marlon Herrera Zamudio: I will appreciate your help about the giants quinametzin history... their life, their customs, their way of living, hunting etc... and if it is true that they helped the Aztecs to fight the Spanish (Answered by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Codex Vaticanus 3738, fol. 4v (detail)
Pic 1: Codex Vaticanus 3738, fol. 4v (detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

Giants feature in Aztec creation myths relating to the existence (and destruction) of the (four) previous ‘Suns’ or world eras. The discovery of fossils of giant quadrupeds (ie mammoths) by the Aztecs must have been taken by them as ‘evidence’ for the world having been populated by giants in very ancient times. Whilst the sources disagree on the sequence of world eras - though they’re all read anti-clockwise on the great Sunstone - these giants had long since disappeared by the time the Spaniards arrived! The only clue we find as to how they ‘lived’ is the often-found suggestions that a) they had ‘weaknesses’ (they could fall over easily and never get up) and b) they had committed ‘sins’ in the past, including aspiring up to reach the gods in the sky, sins of the flesh, and drunkenness.
Guilhem Olivier gives an excellent summary of this in his book Mockeries and Metamorphoses of an Aztec God:-
The giants lived during the First Sun, the Earth Sun, identified as Tezcatlipoca... On the other hand, for the author of the Codex Vaticanus-Latinus 3738... and according to Muñoz Camargo... who both place the giants during the First Sun, this was a Water Sun. Motolinía... Alva Ixtlilxóchitl... and the author of the Anales de Cuauhtitlan... all consider that the era of the giants was the second one, called Earth Sun... Finally, according to André Thévet... and another version recovered by Alva Ixtlilxóchitl... the era of the giants was the third one... Excepting the latter name (Wind Sun), the eras associated with the giants refer to heavy elements, water or earth... The ways in which the giants are destroyed also vary according to the sources: they are devoured by jaguars... crushed under the collapse of the heavenly vault... die during an earthquake... drown in a flood... or die as a consequence of a hurricane.

Pic 2: Codex Vaticanus 3738, fol. 8v (detail)
Pic 2: Codex Vaticanus 3738, fol. 8v (detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

Alva Ixtlilxóchitl is the only author to mention as a cause for their destruction ‘several serious sins that have committed’ - without elaborating. Fortunately details are available in other texts, which place the giants in a ‘historical’ context. They are considered the oldest inhabitants of the earth, and the discovery of gigantic bones constitutes, for the Indians as for the Spaniards, proof of their past existence. The extreme antiquity of these remains grants them the status of ancestors. We should remember that, to create present mankind, Ehecatl [God of Wind] took the bones of giants kept in Mictlan. Today’s human beings owe their reduced size to the fact that Ehecatl fell and broke the giants’ bones...
Towards the Toltecs [see pic 2] the giants act both as omens of their destruction and as the very agents of that destruction. They are creatures from the past who died because of their sins and then arise to punish the new guilty parties, including the Toltecs, who try by dancing to avert the deadly fate they feel coming...

Source/recommended further reading:-
Mockeries and Metamorphoses of an Aztec God: Tezcatlipoca, ‘Lord of the Smoking Mirror’ by Guilhem Olivier, trans. by Michel Besson, University Press of Colorado, 2008, pp. 137-140.

Picture sources:-
• images from the Codex Vaticanus 3738 scanned from our own copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition, Graz, Austria, 1979.

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Mexicolore replies: We will do our best!