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Latin America: Calm Before the Storm

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David Trachtman

on 14 December 2015

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Transcript of Latin America: Calm Before the Storm

For many years, historians believed that numbers given by early European explorers in regards to Native American populations were grossly exaggerated, only to make the conquest of these peoples more impressive. More recent findings have shown that there could have been 67-72 million natives living in the Americas, mostly concentrated in Mesoamerica and the Andean region.

Think of it this way: we have a global population in 1500 of about 500 million:
China and India both had 75-150 millilon people
Europe had 60-70 million
This creates a situation where the popation of the AMericas made up a good chink of the population.

Looking at these societies broadly, here are some features they all shared:
Sedentary agriculture of some kind, lacking nomadic herders
Variety of languages and cultures based on geographic and ecological adaptation
Social organization and hierarchy, religion and artistic creativity
Strong kin-based societies, hierarchy was there, but less about wealth, where in some cases women could hold political power and were instrumental in crop production

How Many Were There?
The Incas had a strong tradition of artistic and technical creativity, as is present in what they were able to make and use for their time
Like Mesoamerica, Incas had no use of the wheel, but also had no written language, instead relying on
, knotted strings to record financial records and possibly other forms of information
Passion for numerical order, population divided into decimal units for population, military enlistment, and work purposes

Perhaps their most impressive feats were those in land and water management, along with their extensive road and building skills, in tandem with their statecraft.
Developed agricultural terraces on slopes of the Andes, using a complex irrigation system to water crops
Empire linked by almost 2500 miles of road, including rope suspension bridges over rivers
Writing With Rope: Inca Culture
How was the Inca gov’t set up, and how did they manage to maintain control over their large territory?

Initial chronicles described a state organization based on decimal system of 10,000, 1,000, and 100, but new research shows that most local practices were maintained. Curacas, or local leaders maintained power and gained privileges in exchange for loyalty

Another major way the Incas were able to expand and retain power came through infrastructure and language, two major tools of communication.

What is the
and how is it essential to a difference between Inca and Aztec tributes?

Who are the
, and what is their function in Inca society?

Explain the power and setup of the Inca nobility, and how it led to both positive and negative outcomes before European arrival?
Cooperation and Subbordination
While Chimor spread its influence for 600 miles on the coast, in the south ethnic groups were fighting over the legacy of Tiahuanaco. Chief amongst these groups were the
, Quechua-speaking people living near Cuzco. Legend says that 10 clans were taken out of caves and brought to Cuzco by a mythical leader, by 1438 they had defeated hostile neighbors under their ruler, the Inca Pachacuti
- Incan armies on the move for the next 60 years
- Pachacuti’s son Topac Yupanqui took Chimor through its irrigation system, expanding into southern Ecuador. next Huayna Capac consolidated conquests and quelled rebellion on the frontier
- By his death, Tawantinsuyu (Incan Empire) spread from Colombia to Chile, eastward past Lake Titicaca and Bolivia into northern Argentina, with a population of 9-13 million people of all diverse ethnic backgrounds
Inca Rising
The Times They Are A Changin'
Aztec society became more hierarchical as the empire grew and social classes with different functions developed, although the older organization based on clans and kinship groups never disappeared. Tribute was drawn from subject peoples, but Aztec society confronted technological barriers that made it difficult to maintain the large population of central Mexico.

What initial purpose did the
serve? How did that role change over time and create a strict social hierarchy?

During this time, the military became highly ritualized and divided, becoming a social class entity unto itself.
- Organized into ranks based on experiences and success in taking captives, divided by uniform, rank, and insignia (Jaguar and Eagle knights)
- “Flowery Death” or dying taking prisoners to be sacrificed was the greatest honor, for women it was dying in childbirth

In a way, this was Aztec society in microcosm, as egalitarianism disappeared and favored restrictions on clothing, hairstyles, and uniforms, among other symbols of rank

When Are We? 1000-1500 CE
8th Century: Collapse of
(tay-oh-tee-wah-KAHN) and the abandonment of Mayan cities creates a power vacuum in Mesoamerica, who fills that void?

Who is
(toh-Peyel-tzhin) and what is his lasting impact on Toltec culture?
- Leader and priest who worshipped Quetzalcoatl (keht-zal-KOH-ah-tul) the Feathered Serpent, initially confused for a god

How far away did the influence of the Toltecs spread? That’s a matter that’s up for debate

The big question: did the Toltecs make contact with the Hopewell people of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys? Ehhhhhh…..maybe.

1150 - The end of the Toltec empire, nomadic invaders from the north sacked Tula and other major cities, centers of population and power shifted to the valley and shores of the Mexican basin, becoming the cultural and population heartland, while various groups vied for power. Who won the power grab?

While there’s a lot we don’t know about the Aztecs, there are some things we know for sure. Mainly that they were a group of 10,000 people who migrated to Lake Texoco in 1325, a region of sedentary farmers and tribes organized into city-states. Like Medieval Europe, political schemes and intermarriage were part of life, and tribes claimed power through military strength or connections to the Toltecs, while sharing the common Nahuatl language.

In 1325, this was apparently seen, as on a marshy island in the middle of Lake Texoco, their capital of
(ten-nahk-teet-LAN) was established, where they could play a more active role in regional politics.

The Rising Tide: Aztec Ascension
What part of Incan culture necessitated constant territorial and tribute expansion?
Split Inheritance
: all political titles and power went to the successor but all land went to his male descendants, who used it to support the mummy for eternity

What religious similarity did the Incas and Aztecs share in common? Where did it differ?
Strong emphasis on a type of animism, giving many natural phenomena spiritual power, including mountains, stones, rivers, caves, tombs, and temples (
, or holy shrines)
Prayer offerings and sacrifices at huacas, goods, humans, and animals
In Cuzco, imaginary lines divided huacas for different allyus to be responsible for
Temples supervised by many priests and women who prepared cloth and food for sacrifice.
Dawn of the Dead...Kinda
Representation of success of imperial and military organization, based on extensive agriculture organized by states that took surplus of good and redistributed them,
Kinship based systems (ayllu and calpulli) were transformed by the emergence of social hierarchy and a nobility increasing in power,
Nobles were the state workers
Recognized local ethnic groups as long as loyalty and tribute is given,
Military power was less effective against nomadic peoples,
Created by conquest of agricultural people and extraction of tribute and labor from them

Climate/ geographical differences
Aztec civilization had more advanced and developed trade systems
Inca no formal written language
Other differences in metallurgy and social definitions
Aztecs vs. Incas...FIGHT!!!!!
Latin America: Calm Before the Storm
Gods, Cults, and Cutting Out Hearts
The Aztec empire stretched from Tarascan Frontier about 100 miles north of Mexico City southward into Maya territory., where subjects would be forced to pay tribute, surrender land, and in some cases serve in the Aztec military. During their move from nomadic mercenaries in loose clan groups to a massive stratified society, the Aztecs rewrote their history under the eye of a supreme ruler, saying that they were the people chosen to serve the gods. Human sacrifice only expanded during this time, as it became a military activity, capturing people in “flower wars” in which both sides earned captives for sacrifice. By the time
Moctezuma II
rules from 1502-20, the king represented civil and religious power, and the cult of human sacrifice had only grown.

The Perfect Pair: Religion and Conquest
Religion was a major uniting factor in Mesoamerica, combining parts of various cultures and ideas and streamlining them. What are some of the major concepts and ideas surrounding the Aztec/Mesoamerican system of dieties?

What were the three major groupings of the gods in Mesoamerica?

(WEE-tsuh-Pohkt-lee) was the tribal patron of the Aztecs based on the old son god, and even though they worshipped Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl, he was the supreme diety in Aztec society
- Since the gods sacrificed themselves to keep the world going and fighting against permanent night, the Aztecs believed they had to sacrifice, in form of blood and hearts
- Not a new concept by any means, Toltec art featured eagles and jaguars eating hearts
- Symbolism and ritual increased with Aztec sacrifice, including in some cases ritual cannibalism
- It’s still being debated if this was all religious or if it was a power tactic to maintain political control

: Even though the Aztec religion was very bloody and brutal, they also asked themselves questions about the nature of life, what it means to be good, and if god really does exist at all.
Let Them Eat Maize
What are
, and how did they play a role in agriculture, on top of Aztec tribute in the form of crops and land?

Agriculture was, well… agriculture! Peasants and slaves worked on land distributed by local tribal leaders, what was left saved for residences and temples
- Some nobles had estates, on which slaves and conquered people would work their own private lands

Like everything else in Aztec culture, the markets and trading were all based on the cyclical calendar, and usually had specific restrictions.
- Cacao beans and gold dust were used as currency sometimes, but mostly still a bartering society
- Tlateloco was a daily market that was controlled by the merchant class (pochteca) and specializing in long-distance trade in luxury items like tropical bir plumes and cacao
- Markets were highly regulated and under the control og judges and inspectors, but it is definitely NOT a market economy as we know it

One Last Point: The state controlled the use and distribution of commodities, resources, and land, redistributing the tribute collected from subordinate people. Depending on whether you resisted or surrendered to the Aztecs determines how much tribute was required of you. Everything from food, slaves, and sacrificial victims were collected, and as the years went on, redistribution became much more inequitable, with nobles receiving far more than the average person.
Eventually, the nobility broke away from their calpulli and established private lands, creating a new class of almost serfs to work them. While still above slaves, who were mostly war captives, criminals, or people who sold themselves into slavery to escape hunger, they had no ownership of land and were forced to work at the will of others.

As far as women are concerned, they were still considered subordinate to men, but had a certain degree of larger responsibility. Women could pass property down to heirs if need be. Peasant women helped in the fields, but their main focus was taking care of the home and children, where weaving was the most coveted skill, taught to daughters by their mothers or older women. Marriages were arranged between families, virginity was seen as the best, and while peasants were monogamous, nobles were known for polygamy.

Technologically Challenged
WIthout technology pieces like the wheel or mills to help turn corn into flour, women would often work 40-50 hours a week preparing food, because even though corn is one of the easiest things to grow, it is difficult to prepare. In addition, estimates of the highly dense Aztec population put their total numbers anywhere from 1.5 million to well over 20 million, demonstrating not only their intimidating size and reputation, but the necessity for technology that was not being developed.

1426 - A major political and social change is beginning, as the old calpulli are changing radically. A new and powerful nobility emerged with an absolute ruler at its head, as military virtue and the cult of sacrifice became the official religion, while performing the important task of finding sacrificial victims and collecting tribute.

Explain the setup of this new, powerful nobility

The Aztec empire was never fully integrated, and in most cases city-states under Aztec rule were only required to offer up tribute, which served a political and economic function by gathering all wealth in the capital. Some kingdoms like the Tarascans maintained independence, while others like the Tlaxcala resisted Aztec control, but they were oftentimes destroyed quickly. In many ways the Aztecs exerted political domination without direct political administration, something that served as both their greatest asset and a large weakness, due to an internal disunity that led to the Aztec collapse.
Discussion Topic
Analyze similarities and differences in Inca and Aztec society. Take into account political structure, religious beliefs, gender roles, and economic capabilities.
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