According to historical accounts, when Spaniard Hernán Cortés and his followers in 1519 arrived in what much later became the country of Mexico, the groups of indigenous people who ruled the area where the Spaniards “landed” were called the MEXICAS — thus, in the Spanish language,  it is reasonable that the Spaniards referred to the natives there as Mexicanos or Mexicanas.

Not until much later in the 1800s were those particular native peoples referred to as AZTECS…  Simply put (hopefully), reportedly a scientist by the name of Alexander Von Humboldt who was working in Mexico in the 1800s referred in writing to those who initially confronted the invading Spaniards as AZTECS — he did that in order to avoid using the terms MEXICA, or MEXICANOS/MEXICANAS to refer to them because he wanted to avoid in some way confusing the readers of his writings as to whom he was referring: the rulers of central Mexico when the Spaniards arrived, or  the citizens of the modern country of MEXICO (who after 1821 were called Mexicanos/Mexicanas).

The term AZTEC was found in the religion of the MEXICAS and is itself an interesting topic.


2 Responses

  1. I knew there was a goup from Mexico who wanted to establish their identity as Mexica, rather than Aztca. Never really understood what their reasoning was. The grandfather of my daughters considered himself “Azteca.” He clearly made that distinction when I asked him, “Tomas, your people are from which tribe?” “Azteca,” he replied crisply, with a strong voice.

    • As indicated in the post, my understanding is that there never was a tribe who called itself “Aztecs”. They called themselves Mexicas( pronounced probably as “Mesheecas”… The name Aztecs was applied much later…

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