General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Apr 2021/4 Wind
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Corn - the heart of Mexican culture

The heart of each meal

All ancient Mexicans worshipped maize/corn. It remains at the heart of every Mexican’s diet. Mexico is the home of corn. For the ancient Maya, humans were made from maize by their gods. For the Aztecs a successful person was compared to a ‘ripe ear of corn’. In their festivals children and young people represented the different stages of growth of maize... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Sacred maize, Codex Borbonicus
Pic 1: Sacred maize, Codex Borbonicus (Click on image to enlarge)

For the Aztecs humans not only depended on vegetables like corn for life, they identified with them and were encouraged to grow like them. Aztec farmers were all too aware of the delicate and essential combination of sun, earth, seeds and water that gave forth food, life’s fuel. In the Florentine Codex the Aztecs compared body processes to those of plants and vegetables: ‘blood vessels were likened to reeds, moving the blood through the flesh as water moves through the earth. The description of the heart relates it closely to the sun: it is “round, hot... it makes one live”’. Just like a tortilla fresh from the griddle...!
The Mexica referred to maize as tonacatl or ‘our flesh’ - in essence, they were the same substance in different forms - and maize was only one of two crops (the other being the maguey cactus) represented by its very own deity.

Pic 2: Key parts of the process...
Pic 2: Key parts of the process... (Click on image to enlarge)

Just before cooking the maize kernels in a pot (with ash) to soften them, Mexica women would breathe on the corn. As the Florentine Codex says, ‘it was held that in this way it would not take fright; thus it would not fear the heat.’
And should any grains of precious maize be found scattered on the ground, they were gathered up in great haste - the Aztecs believed the grains lay crying on the floor and would later accuse the careless individual before the maize god (or goddess), risking starvation or some other punishment.

Image sources:-
• Main pictures: photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Pic 1: image from the Codex Borbonicus scanned from the Siglo XXI facsimile edition (original in the Bibliotheque de l’Assembée Nationale, Paris)
• Pic 2: main illustration: drawing by Alberto Beltrán; illustration of pot by Felipe Dávalos/Mexicolore; image from the Florentine Codex (original in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence)

Info sources:-
Aztecs by Inga Clendinnen, Cambridge University Press, 1991
Florentine Codex, Books 4 & 5, trans. Charles E Dibble & Arthur J O Anderson, University of Utah, 1979.

Why did the Aztecs worship maize?

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