General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 1 Mar 2021/6 Grass
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Ancient Mexican seashells pendant

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Professor Patrick Johansson

Which was the most common superstition in Aztec times? asked Sheringdale Primary School. Read what Professor Patrick Johansson had to say.

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Netzahualcoyotl portrait from the Codex Ixtlilxochitl

Netzahualcóyotl’s hidden poem

A good friend of ours, Tecpaocelotl, pointed out to us the presence on Mexico’s current $100-peso note of a gem of a poem by the poet-prince-warrior Netzahualcóyotl (Coyote Who Fasts) (1402-1472), leader of the Acolhua people and ruler of the city-state of Texcoco. One of the key leaders of the Aztec ‘Triple Alliance’ between Texcoco, Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan, Netzahualcoyotl has been called ‘the wisest ruler that had ever ruled over the Anahuac Valley’ (Central Mexico). (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Where to find the short 5-line poem...
Where to find the short 5-line poem... (Click on image to enlarge)

This is the brief poem, with its simple humanist message:-
Amo el canto del zentzontle
Pájaro de cuatrocientas voces
Amo el color del jade
Y el enervante perfume de las flores
Pero amo más a mi hermano el hombre.

I love the song of the zentzontle,
Bird of myriad voices.
I love the colour of jade
And the seductive perfume of flowers;
But most of all I love my fellow human beings.

Scans from two different notes
Scans from two different notes (Click on image to enlarge)

The zentzontle, sometimes written cenzontle is the Northern Mockingbird, found from Canada down to Mexico and Cuba. So-called because of its ability to reproduce the call of dozens of birds and other creatures (males are said to have a repertoire of up to 200 calls), its original Náhuatl name comes from the two key words centzontli meaning four hundred (or ‘myriad’) and tlahtolli meaning ‘word’ or song.

‘Amo el canto del zentzontle...’
‘Amo el canto del zentzontle...’ (Click on image to enlarge)

Picture sources:-
• Note scans by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Portrait of Netzahualcóyotl scanned from our copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition of the Codex Ixtlilxóchitl (Graz, 1976), folio 106r.

‘And then there was one...’

‘Mockingbird intelligence’
Northern Mockingbird (Wikipedia)
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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: Thanks for this, Tecpa. We have huge respect for the scholar interviewed in the article you refer to (Patrick Johansson) who is on our Panel of Experts. Fascinating...