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THE AZTEC NATION The Aztecs are Native American people who created a rich civilization and powerful empire in central and southern Mexico from the 14th to the 16th century. They were one of the largest and most advanced Indian nations to ever exist on earth. The Aztecs life style was better than many Europeans of that time but they lag behind in military technoligy. The Aztec nation is more unique in its history, economy, geography and way of life then any other nation at that time About three thousand years ago small bands of hunting and gathering tribes made their way across the land bridge and migrated southward through Canada and the United States. Eventually they settled in the valley of Mexico. For the next two thousand years the tribes of the valley constantly fought each other for the control of the land. It wasn't until the eleventh century that the Aztec tribe began their migration in to the valley. They came from their mythical mysterious homeland Aztl?n. The conflict in the Central Valley continued and the Aztecs were constantly at war with their neighbors. It seems at first that the other tribes in the area would defeat the Aztecs, but they would prevail and create one of the most powerful Indian tribes in the area. By the 14th century the Aztec civilization flourished they began to construct several great cities in the valley of Mexico. In the days of the Aztec, the area was covered with a series of small lakes. This included lake Texcoco, which had an island in the center. The Aztecs built their greatest city on the island. It would become known as Tenochtitl?n and would become their capital. Tenochtitl?n was a pre-Columbian city in central Mexico and capital of the Aztecs. It lies on the site of present-day Mexico City. It was founded in 1325 originally on an island in what was Lake Texcoco. It became a flourishing city, protected against floods by well-built dams and connected with the mainland by three causeways. According to modern estimates it housed up 200,000,000 people, making it one of the most populous cities in the ancient world. The Spanish conqueror Hern?n Cort?s occupied the city in 1521 and razed it. Upon its ruins he founded Mexico City. Aztec society was highly advanced, it relied on agriculture and religion to guide it. The Aztec worshipped gods that represented natural forces and were important to their agricultural economy. All Aztec cities had giant stone pyramids with pyramids on top where human sacrifices took place. Aztec art was an expression of religion and warfare. This increased the empire's wealth and power. In Aztec mythology several worlds are created and destroyed by the gods before the creation of the human world. Quetzalcoatl was thought to be the Aztec god and legendary ruler of Mexico. The Aztecs made him a symbol of death and resurrection and a patron of priests. Tezcatlipoca who was the god of the night sky opposed him and it was believed that he had driven Quetzalcoatl into exile. According to prophecy Quetzalcoatl would one day return. So when the Spanish conqueror Hern?n Cort?s appeared in 1519 the Aztec king Montezuma II thought he was Quetzalcoatl returning to his people. In 1519 Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes and 500 Spaniards landed in eastern Mexico. They were there in search of land and gold. Cort?s formed an alliance with the Tlaxcalans, which were an enemy of the Aztecs. Then he set out for Tenochtitl?n. The Aztec ruler Montezuma allowed Cort?s to enter the city in order to learn more about him and his intentions. Cort?s found large amounts of gold and other treasure in the city. He feared that the Aztecs would attack his vastly outnumbered force. So he seized Montezuma as a hostage. The Spaniards melted down the gold ornaments of the Aztec for shipment to Spain and forced Montezuma to swear allegiance to the king of Spain. The Spaniards remained in the city for the next six months. Then the Spanish massacred 200 Aztec nobles who had gathered for a religious ceremony. The Aztec then rebelled trying to drive the Spaniards out of their city. The Spanish tried to escape through the water but three-fourths of them drowned because they were weighted down with stolen gold. Cortes retreated to regroup. He then attacked Tlaxcalans with greater numbers and eventually conquered the city. The Spaniards conquered the remaining Aztec peoples and took over their lands, forcing them to work in gold mines and on Spanish estates. The fall of Tenochtitl?n marked the end of the Native American civilizations that had existed since the first human settlement of the region. On the ruins of Tenochtitl?n, the Spaniards built Mexico City. The city's present-day cathedral rises over the ruins of an Aztec temple, and the palace of the Mexican president stands on the site of the palace of Montezuma. About 80 percent of Mexico's population is made up of mestizos who are the mixed race of Spaniards and natives. Indigenous peoples make up approximately 8 percent of the population. These people are mostly of Mayan and Aztecs decent. While Spanish people make up about 9 percent of the population. As most powerful and advanced nations and cultures of history the Aztec nation was defeated and simply faded away into poverty and despair. The Aztecs became powerful in their own part of the world but once outsiders with better weapons and no regard for their way of life came in to the Aztec world, their society fell almost immediately. Their Mythology also contributed to their defeat by helping mislead the Aztec king. Even though their grand empire is long gone the Aztecs still live together in peace with their former Spanish invaders.

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