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Mexico - Pre-Hispanic Age: Mexica Civilization

Mexica Empire, Triple Alliance

Last modified: 2009-05-24 by
Keywords: mexico | aztec | mexica | tacuba | tlacopan | texcoco | labaro | cortés | nahuatl | amate | paper | pantli |
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The Nahuatl script: glyphs and amate

Nahuatl speaker use a symbolic (non-phonetic) "alphabet". The glyph in question was used to represent the city on written document but in the same way then writing down: "L-O-N-D-O-N".
Marc Pasquin, December 22, 2002.

Thank you Mr. Pasquin for clarifying this very important point. In other words, such glyphs used on pantlith, which were made of "amate" (from the nahuatl word "amatl", a tree ficus grabata of whose bark Mesoamerican peoples made a sort of yellowish paper named after it), should be understood something like "texts on flags". However, because such "pantlitl" were put at the entrance of the towns or cities, they could be also "signs" like those placed on roads.
For example:

By the way, because of the material (amate) the flags (pantlitl) were built, there is not physical or existent evidence of them. The main, and may be the only, sources about the matter are the pre-Hispanic and colonial chronicles and codex.

Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, December 25, 2002.

Mexica "Calpullis"

Mexico-Tenochtitlan was administrativelly divided into 20 calpullis, four of them were the most important ones and the political centers. Each had its own ensign, dressing, and organization.
The four main calpullis weres: Cuepopan, Moyotla, Soquiapan, and Atzacualco.
Out of these 20 calpullis, there is just pictogrphic testimony of the four main calpullis, accoding the Mendocine Codex
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, May 1, 2002

Cuepopan was located in the Northeast of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. It was led by the Tlacochcálcatl, Chief of the House of Darts, for it was the place were the arsenla was kept. The Cuepopan ensign consisted of three white flag, aztapamitl joined by three quetzal plumes, which belonged to the Tlacochcálcath.
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, May 1, 2002

Moyotla was located to the Southweast of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. It is represented by a building adorned with tecomitl, called Tecocyahualco, for its chief was the Tecocyahuácatl. Moyotla is represented by a flag with horizontal-colored stripes, above a brown "canton" with nine circle within and some other in its borders, the hoist is top with a Quetzal-plume that belonged to the Tecocyahuácatl.
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, May 1, 2002

Zoquiapan is in the Souteast of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. It had the building called Hutznáhuac that shows the sacrificing symbols. It's leader is the Huitznáhuatl. The Zoquipan flag is with red-and-white striped broken to contain two Quetzal adorns. The hoisted is crested by a Quetzal plume that in turn is the Huitznáhuatl's ensign.
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, May 1, 2002

The flag of Atzacoalco was a kind of big umbrella made of feathers, in gold, carried by the army general. Cuepopan’s standard was composed by three white flags, atzapamitl, bond together and with Quetzal feathers that belonged to the Tlacohcalcatl. The others are the standards of Moyotla and Zoquiapan.
Jorge Candeias, 27 Oct 1997, translating from La Bandera Mexicana website (No longer in service).

Mexica Army flag

Each squadron of the Mexica army had a leader, called tepuchtlato. The warriers in each calpulli elected their leader, and to be differentiated in battle, the leader carried on his back the flag of its calpulli; to be further dirrerentiated, the ichcahuipilli covered themselves in feathers of different colour, besides the flag or pantli, so that if the ones in one squadron carried white and red feathers, the ones in other squadrons had them in blue and yellow or in other combinations. The leaders of the mexica Army had their special standard or flag with more or less charges according to their rank.
Jorge Candeias, 27 Oct 1997, translating from La Bandera Mexicana website (No longer in service).

Historical importance of a lábaro

The people of Hernan Cortés, after the Sad Night, already retrieving towards Tlaxcala, arrived at July 7, 1520 to the plain between Otumba and Ajapuxco. When they arrived, faced about 200 000 Aztec Warriors. The battle was hard, and at about noon both the Spaniards and their Tlaxcaltec allies, began to leave Cortés. But he knew through Malinche many Aztec ways and charged on the leader of the aztec army, pushing him with the horse, making him fall to the ground. When he did so, Juan de Salamanca, one of the captains of Cortés steped down from his horse and took the lábaro. The warriers, seing their leader in the ground and their flag taken, considered the battle lost and started to retreat.
Jorge Candeias, 27 Oct 1997, translating from La Bandera Mexicana website (No longer in service).

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