Had my vehicle in the shop for a long-overdue tune-up today. Apropos of nothing, if you have to have your steed looked at, be sure to get the mechanic with the NASCAR tattoos. Accept no substitute.
Anyhoo, during the process I wound up spending a long time in the waiting area with a group of Young Folk, who were intently listening to one of their number expound on the folklore of the Glorious Age of the Aztec Empire.
Man, I thought that L’Morte de Arthur took liberties with history. Hah! Malory was a rank amateur compared to whomever is fueling the Aztlan propaganda machine.
Just because I’m in one of them moods, we will now enter The Wayback Machine and spend todays entry riffing on Meso-America.
The early Aztecs were basically the Hell’s Angels of the Meso-American world.
Before settling in the Valley of Mexico, they were considered brutish, rude, boorish, savage, barbaric, violent and worst of all, they didn’t understand their place on the social ladder.
Damned barbarians. Have they no manners?
Looks like the proto-Aztecs got kicked out of every City-State and Empire in Mexico and spent most of their formative years as unwilling nomads.
Finally, they settled in (long tongue-twisting word with waaaay too many consonants, we’ll just say, “Valley of Mexico”) because one of their leaders saw an eagle perched in a cactus with a snake in its talons and marked it as a sign from the Gods.
Only the truly cynical would think that Azzie High Command had cued in on the fact that the troopies were getting seriously tired of wandering and were contemplating staging the Aztec version of the Change of Command ceremony as a factor in the choice of location.
The Aztecs spent the next 50-100 years hiring out to whichever Empire or City-State needed some really good warriors. The other tribes tolerated the Azzies, as long as they didn’t try to move in with the Quality after the screaming and bleeding was done.
Same old story: The Azzies were Shining Saviours when somebody elses army was waving obsidian-toothed clubs at your populace, but when it came time to pay for services rendered — suddenly the Aztecs were just another horde of over-paid, over-sexed mercenaries. Coulda done the job ourselves, didn’t look so hard…
After three or four generations of this, the Aztecs got tired of being shown the highway as soon as the bodies quit bouncing, and they decided to make their own Empire and make darn sure that they got to be the Snobs.
At its height, the Aztec Empire was second only to the Inca Empire in size. Yes, they were Number 2 in Meso-America.
However, while folks call it an Empire, it wasn’t an Empire as we would recognize it: the Aztecs simply got paid tribute from the various parts of their Empire — they let the locals make their own laws and run their own governments.
The Azzies could have taken a page out of the Roman playbook and avoided that little strategic and tactical error, but que sera, sera.
Bit of pro-RKBA trivia: the Aztecs had a militia. If you weren’t a girl-child, you learned to swing a pretty mean club. If you didn’t want to be a good gun-nut…err, club-nut… you could take it up with the War God. In person. Right after you quit bouncing down the pyramid steps.
That’s what I call an incentive system.
Anyhoo, since the Aztecs left their subjects more-or-less to themselves, a large part of their Empire pretty much stayed in some state of rebellion or other.
Cue Hernando Cortez and his Merry Band of Multi-cultural Marauders.
Once while choosing a new General, Napoleon is said to have ignored his list of certificates and medals, instead asking, “How lucky is he?”
Napoleon would have absolutely loved Hernado Cortez.
Cortez had been picked to lead an expedition to Mexico, but the expedition had been cancelled because the Governor of Cuba suspected Cortez of political ambitions.
Politics? Cortez? No!
Being a free-spirited type, Cortez went anyway, violating a direct order. He landed on the Yucatan Peninsula with 600 warm bodies, and when his spear carriers began to wonder what the hell they were doing in darkest Mexico, Cortez burned the ships to encourage the proper mindset.
Little after they landed, Henry and the boys got jumped by the Tlaxcalans. The Tlaxcalans outnumbered Cortez’s people by a factor of three hundred to one, and fought three pitched battles against the invaders before deciding to ally with the Spaniards.
Cortez decided to leave half his forces at Vera Cruz and go sightseeing (this is probably about the time we get Cortez’s famous quote: “I do not wish to grub in the dirt like a peasant. I wish to find gold.”) with his new-found Bestest Buddies, and ran smack into the Aztecs.
You want to talk about incredible dumb luck? Pale-skinned Hank could have shown up at any time plus or minus 15 years or so, but noooo, he has to show up when the locals were expecting their pale-skinned Quetzacoatl to reappear.
If I had tried that, the first Aztec I’d run into would have said, “Gods, huh? Well, if you’re Gods, then getting whacked with this club shouldn’t bother you…Hmm. Oops, he broke. Obviously not Gods. Kill them all.”
Some folks get all the luck.
Anyhoo, Henry rode the “I am your God Quetzal-geshundteit. Give me all your gold as sacrifice. No, all of it. And throw in a maiden or two while you’re at it” during the day, and at night he was convincing the subjugated City-States to throw off the yoke of their Imperialistic Aztec Oppressors and throw in with the freedom-loving Spaniards.
Busy little boyo, I’ll give him that.
So, here’s our boy. And he’s up to his steel knickers fomenting insurgent uprisings, the Azzies are getting a case of the hips, things are looking a little gloomy for the Visiting Team, and what happens?
Remember the part about Cortez violating a direct order not to go to Mexico? Well, Hank’s old boss in Cuba decides to do something about his little lost lamb and sends about 1400 armed reminders to Come Home. Cortez and his Tlaxcalan Best Friends Forever stomp the absolute menudo out of the arresting force and set about recruiting the survivors.
Considering the Meso-American way of dealing with recalcitrant attitudes, it’s not very surprising that the survivors decided that they Really Meant to Sign Up The Whole Time.
Anyhoo, there’s the story of the Aztec Empire in a nutshell.