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Thread by @DavidOBowles: "Whenever possible, I try to avoid referring to the Nahuas (whether Mexica-Tenochca, Tlaxcalteca, Texcoca, etc.) as "Aztecs." There's good re […]"

9 tweets, 2 min read
Whenever possible, I try to avoid referring to the Nahuas (whether Mexica-Tenochca, Tlaxcalteca, Texcoca, etc.) as "Aztecs." There's good reason for this. They themselves abandoned the name after leaving Aztlan, their legends say. 1/5
Here's how the Codex Chimalpahin narrates the episode: "Auh ca niman oncān ōquincuēpilli in īntōcā in Aztēcah. Ōquimiliuh, 'In āxcān aocmo amotōcā: ye anmexihtin.' Oncān nō ōquinacazpotōniqueh inic ōcuiqueh in īntōcā Mexihtin. Inic āxcān ye mihtoa Mēxihcah." 2/5
"And it was then and there that he [Huitzilopochtli] changed their name from 'Azteca.' He said, "Now your name is no longer Azteca: it is Mexihtin.' There also they dangled feathers from their ears as they took the name Mexihtin. Therefore they are now called Mexica." 3/5
So who started this trend? The first published use of "Aztec" was when Father Francisco Javier Clavijero Echegaray (New Spain) included it in his book La Historia Antigua de México (1780). German explorer Alexander Von Humboldt borrowed it when writing up his trip to Mexico. 4/5
The term entered English when William Prescott’s book The History of the Conquest of Mexico was published in 1843. Then newly independent Mexico started with its "País Azteca" nationalism. So we're kind of stuck now. Still don't like it. The Aztecs stayed in Aztlan. Period. 5/5
P.S. The different Nahua groups all used tribal names or demonyms related to their cities (so the Mexihtin became the Mēxihcah-Tenōchcah because their city-state was called Mēxihco-Tenōchtitlan, the Tetzcohcah lived in Tetzcohco, etc.).
P.P.S. I don’t mean to excoriate people for using “Aztec,” btw. Sometimes there’s little choice if you want people to understand. I have a book called FLOWER, SONG, DANCE: AZTEC AND MAYA POETRY, for example. My latest book contains a section titled “Aztecs Ascendant.” :sigh: 7/7
It's a long-standing practice, btw. Later in the codex, we get this sentence: "Inic niman oncān ōhuālquīzqueh Quinehuayān Chicōmoztōc in ōmotēneuhqueh huēhuetqueh Mexihtin Aztēcah Teōchichimēcah Teōcōlhuahcātepēcah." 8/9
"Then emerged from Quinehuayan Chicomoztoc, the ancient ones known as Mexihtin-Azteca-Teochichimeca-Teocolhuacatepeca." Nahua historians had a tendency to affix new names to old ones in annals so the audience wouldn't forget who they once were. Not the end of the world, see? 9/9
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