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The Candy Man Can: These Stunning Chocolate Tributes Pay Homage to the Late Gene Wilder

The Candy Man Can: These Stunning Chocolate Tributes Pay Homage to the Late Gene Wilder

A Welsh artist released a stunning stop-motion video painting a portrait of the late Gene Wilder entirely out of chocolate

He left behind his world of pure imagination.

Gene Wilder, funnyman and iconic actor best known for his role as the original Willy Wonka, died yesterday at age 83 of complications from Alzheimer’s at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. Tributes of the late great star are already popping up, and unsurprisingly, some of them are edible.

A Welsh artist released an unbelievable stop-motion video of a portrait of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, being painted entirely from chocolate: a fitting (and sweet) tribute.

“No words are needed here, the world has lost another of it's [sic] greats...watch as the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory star is created using nothing but chocolate,” Nathan Wyburn wrote in the description of his video that was released yesterday shortly after the comedic actor’s death was announced.

Wyburn is known for his artwork made out of foods such as chocolate, pasta, and pizza — a talent he made use of as a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent. The resulting portrait, as you can see below, is stunningly lifelike, and Wyburn said he worked on the creation for almost four straight hours.

In a strange coincidence, the Australian baking competition reality TV show, Zumbo’s Just Dessert, will be airing an episode tonight featuring a floating Willy Wonka hat replica made entirely out of chocolate. The episode was taped before Wilder died. The host of the show, Adriano Zumbo, has a tattoo of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka on his forearm.


AZTEC MEDICINE

The treatment of any illness could be approached from quite a few different angles including, physical treatment, drugs, or a spiritual cure. The herb knowledge was extensive and effective. The spiritual, or magical cures, were just as important and deserve equal study and consideration as they apply to general medical treatment.

The Aztec had a love-hate relationship with their deities and saw themselves as mere pawns in the hands of the gods. An illness could be seen as retribution for not strictly following a rather extensive set of daily homage routines. Sickness may also be inflicted for no other reason than the amusement of a particular deity.

Another form of divine intervention in the health of the Aztec was pre-ordained illness. The Aztec had a well established birth sign structure, much like modern astrology. Babies born during certain days were expected to develop into sickly children and die early of disease. Conversely babies born on other days could expect favor from the gods and live happy, disease free lives. Should one of these favored people develop illness, he or she surely must have forgotten to properly pay homage to the gods.

In a general sense, Aztec medical science was on an even par with contemporary medical science of the day in Europe. Often times the Aztecs, or more specifically the Mexica, were far superior in the identification and treatment of the various ailments that affected them. Like their medical counterparts in Europe(*1),

____________________
1 Europe, in some ways, was behind the New world in the progression of medicine. As late as 1530 such theories as the "Doctrine of Signatures" was being led by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus. This theory stated that plants looked like the disease they were intended to cure. For example a walnut looked like a brain, therefore, it must be good for the cure of brain ailments. Ody, p. 19. Paracelsus, real name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, ordered his followers in 1524 to burn books written by advocates of herb medicine, Kruger, p.157.

the Aztec practitioners tended to concentrate on treating the symptom and not the disease or cause of the illness(*2).

Dr. Michael Meyer relates that the Aztecs were even performing "brain operations" (*3). In general, the Mexica could be considered to have been a very healthy race of people with preventive health measures and in possession of a good sense of public sanitation as a part of their daily lives.

The mental health of the Aztec was certainly in need of improvement. Considering the extent of anxiety in the daily lives of the common individual, it is no wonder that so many of their drugs were prescribed for various stomach ailments. As a regular antacid user myself, I speak from experience when I say that anxiety affects your digestive track, and I don't even have to worry about giant rocks falling on my head or becoming claw-handed as a result of my birth sign.

The daily lives of the Aztec were so regulated and controlled that it would have been difficult to maintain any type of mental health that we would associate with. This breakdown of balance between the mind and the body could manifest itself in a number of physical ailments, and probably did.

With the exception of bleeding a patient, or setting broken bones, the Mexica concentrated on an (*4) approach to medicine, even maintaining extensive

_________________
2 The Aztecs were convinced that comets, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were some of the causes of illness, as well as offending various deities, particularly Tezcatliopoca.

3 Meyer, p. 79. Meyer does not reference his source for this statement. Wolfgang von Hagen, pp. 113-114, discusses the subject of skull trepanning as having been highly developed in the Inca society but found no references to the Aztecs developing such a practice.

4 As the Mexica tended to approach medicine from an herbal view, it is helpful to understand basic naturopathic terms and principals associated with herbs and the use of herbs in medicine. Listed here are the basic elements associated with a more modern naturopathic approach to healing with herbs.

ASTRINGENT - helps to close open wounds and stop fluid discharge.
ANTIEMETIC - used to control vomiting.
ANTISEPTIC - used to cleanse and ward off infection.
ANTISPASMODIC - used to relieve spasms.
DEMULCENT - inflammation relief.
DIURETIC - help with the flow of urine.
EMETIC - induce vomiting.
EMMENAGOGUE - help with menstruation flow.
EMOLLIENT - balm for inflamed skin.
FEBRIFUGE - fever control
LAXATIVE - constipation.
NERVINE - the nervous system treatment.
SEDATIVE - help with sleep and relaxation.
TONIC- revitalize and strengthen the whole body.

for growing some of the drugs that they used medicinally(*5).

Some fifteen hundred different plants, pastes, potions, and powders were catalogued soon after the conquest by a variety of historians. The Mexica were sophisticated enough to wrap flower petals around certain medicines to form a type of capsule, or "pill" for easy consumption(*6). Many of these medicinally used plants and herbs are still in use today and can be found in sidewalk drugstores(*7). Photographs of the disease are often posted along with the various jars, bags and other containers displayed, depicting the ailment the drug is intended to cure or provide some sort of relief.

____________________________________
5 Townsend, p. 170-171, relates the location of several tended gardens that may have produced some of the medicinal items used routinely by the Mexica. One was constructed by an engineer called Pinotel, commissioned by Moctezuma I, to build a garden near Huaxtepec. This garden was a horticultural experiment that successfully transplanted trees and herbs from the coastal regions to the Valley of Mexico. During the transplanting the gardeners would let blood over the planting area from their ears and fast for eight days. Gillmore, pp. 169-170 gives the spelling as Pinotl and relates the story in detail and assigns Pinotl as being a tribute collector from the Cuetlaxtlan region. Gillmore further relates in her notes, p. 236, that certain medicinal plants grown in this garden were cultivated after the conquest for a hospital in Mexico City run by Gregorio Lopez.

The lord of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, maintained an extensive medicinal garden of trees and therapeutic plants at Tetzcotzingo. Cortes wrote to King Charles V. of his observations of the extensive gardens at Ixtapalapan, as noted in his second letter to the King written in 1520. The great garden at Huaxtepec was discussed in his third letter.

7 The sidewalk drugstore I am most familiar with is located just outside the tourist zone in Nogalas Sonora and is just feet away from a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacy is full of tourists and what look like well off local residents, while the sidewalk vendor always seems to have a good crowd of what appear to be less economically stable local residents. The vendor had approximately 100 different large clear plastic bags and jars with various dried roots, powders, and herbs. I have also observed similar sidewalk drugstores throughout Asia.

The Mexica seemed not to encompass medicine into their long list of social taboo subjects, and approached the science with an open mind. The history of the Valley of Mexico teaches us that the area was a melting pot of cultures. For centuries various tribes from both North and South America settled and mingled in the fertile valley of central Mexico.

The various medicine practitioners must have sought each other out and traded recipes, stories and secrets. The discoveries made by each tribe were discussed, tried and experimented with. The good ones eventually would have been accepted into general daily practice. The Mexica even had a crude dental industry in practice. Common tooth decay among the Mexica was treated with crude fillings and drugs were used for anesthetic. Feather quills and cactus spines were used as simple instruments. Ground seeds and roots of the nettle plant was used for the treatment of festering gums(*8).

The general state of sanitary conditions in the streets, homes, and great ceremonial centers, located near the great city of Tenochtitlan, were exceptional and well regulated. Although I'm not sure this sanitation was done in the name of any health related regulation but rather a way to keep a large number of people gainfully employed and give the various deities a clean place to rest.

The city streets were well swept and kept clean(*9), drainage was well mastered, and most human waste was collected and disposed of or used in an agricultural manner(*10). The daily garbage generated by the large population of the city(*11) was treated in a like manner. Several reports by the conquering Spanish make reference to the cleanliness of the great city of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area.

____________________
8 Liquidamber styraciflua, or sweet gum (copal) was applied to a cheek in hot form for a common toothache. Vogel, pp. 378-9.

9 Meyer, p. 89, indicates that a crew of over a thousand people were daily assigned to the task of cleaning the city streets of the great Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.

10 Innes, p. 140, relates that canoes of human waste were taken up various creeks and sold for the manufacture of salt and skin curing. Urine was made into dye.

11 Buckets of human waste were routinely reported to have been seen sold in the marketplace for use as fertilizer. Human waste was barged with garbage out of the city. There must have been landfills and dumping areas. I have not been able to ascertain the locations of these Aztec "dumps" , however, a likely spot may have been on the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco near the Chimalhuacan area.

The common Mexica household maintained a good sense of personal hygiene and bathed often, once a day was common(*12). Aztec society before the arrival of the Spanish could be considered a healthy one. Medicine seemed to be confined strictly to the treatment of diseases, both physical and spiritual and not to physical (*13).

As soon as 1553, by royal order, the Spanish began to establish a system. This order called for the establishment of a hospital program to tend to the medical needs of ill Indians in the cities and countryside. By 1570 King Philip II had sent his personal doctor, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico who spent seven years in the study of the native plants of Mexico as well as a general study of Aztec medicine, and took his finding back to Spain(*14).

In 1580 Mexico City could boast four hospitals for Spaniards(*15), one hospital for the Indian population, and one hospital for Negroes and Mestizos(*16). Various groups of nuns and monasteries in Mexico began to open their doors and concentrate their energy on the health of Mexico.

____________________
12 One of the hardest traditions the early Spanish priests tried to break was the practice of adult men bathing with young girls and older women bathing with young males.

13 During an earthquake it was common practice to publicly sacrifice a hunchback, or other severely deformed, to stem the destruction. For this reason hunchbacks and other afflicted with physical deformities were well treated by society and kept close at hand.
14 He intended to publish his work but much of his work was destroyed. He did however collect information on over twelve hundred different plants used in medicine.

15 Apparently the hospitals were well funded. According to Lockhart, p. 216 & p. 284, one particular Mexico City hospital, Nuevstra Senora de la Concepcion, was supported by a large ranch it owned called Estancia of Mestepec in the western part of Ixtlahuaca. As of 1585 the estancia could boast possession of 10,400 sheep, as well as black slaves to run the ranch.

16 Meyer, p. 245. Meyer further relates that these hospitals were more like "rest homes" and provided only minimal treatments. The good Bishop Zumarraga established a hospital in Mexico City for the treatment of Venereal diseases with an asylum for the insane soon following. Even with the coming of European medicine the early Spanish colonists could only expect to live half as long as we do today.

In 1533 the Spanish crown was calling for anyone practicing medicine to have been examined by a qualified university to ascertain competence of the medical practitioner. In 1621 a department of surgery and anatomy was initiated at the University of Mexico. By 1791 there were barely two hundred and twenty one surgeons and barbers(*17) in Mexico to service the native population. Those practitioners were located mostly in the large cities with little contact with the rural areas(*18). Considering the large Indian population in the countryside, it is no wonder that ancient cures and medicines persisted into daily practice and can still be found to be in use in large sections of Mexico today.

Medicine in Mexico has never seemed to be a great burning political cause, or at least at other times than election periods. Even during the Mexican revolutionary period, 1910-1940, the population tended to place land reform and education above the health of the common people. The medical system in Mexico today still relies heavily upon ancient cures and the local midwives and medicine men. Fortunately for the poor many of these herbs, remedies and potions actually work.

This system of medicine provided a base for the formal medical community to build upon. Recent awareness of the importance of some of the old medicines has led to university level interest into the study and documentation of some of the ancient herbal remedies still in practice by the Indians of Mexico and other middle and South American Indian tribes. local medicine people are being contacted in rural areas of Mexico today and specimens tested for cancer relieving properties, tuberculosis, and a host of modern day ailments including AIDS research. One such program is funded by agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil(*19).

____________________
17 Surgeons, or the common official medical practitioner, was also a barber.

19 Current team researchers are from the University of Arizona, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, the Institute of Biological Resources in Argentina, the National University of Patagonia in Argentina, the Catholic University of Chile, the National University of Mexico and the American Cyanamid Company. This team is headed (as of this writing) by Barbara A. Timmermann professor of pharmacology/toxicology and arid lands studies, the University of Arizona. She has been studying and relating her finding of the subject of desert plants for 30 years. An article outlining this on-going research project with a photograph of Professor Timmermann is featured in THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR, p. 1 B, September 4, 1994. Professor Timmermann is known to lecture on the subject.

THE DIET OF THE MEXICA

The Mexica tended to eat quite well and adapted to their surrounding environment with ease(*20). Although there was limited year around fruit production in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were able to obtain necessary vitamins supplements of A and C from the various chilies they cultivated and used as condiments(*21). Although we tend to think of the Mexica as a strictly corn based society they cultivated another grain called "Huautli", or amaranth in large quantities(*22). Amaranth grain is high in protein and is today making a comeback in dietary popularity after centuries of lost general appeal. Cultivation of wild onions as well as tomatoes, called "xictomatl", and green tomatoes called "tomatl" (*23), were available as well as several squash varieties and mushrooms.


Cultivated root crops such as sweet potatoes, called "camotli"(*24), and the "jicama", a turnip like root, were served in a variety of meals. Meat was commercially raised and made available to the general population from the production of turkeys(*25), dogs(*26), mice, pigs(*27), wild sheep, and

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20 In their early history, before the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica tribe was banished to a rocky and unwanted section of land in the lake area that was infested with rattlesnakes. The Mexica soon developed a taste for rattlesnake meat and thrived as a tribe.

21 Chili pods were mostly roasted and then ground into a powder. The Aztec would boil this powder with water to make a kind of sauce similar to modern Tabasco sauce. Chili is an Aztec word the Spanish called them "pimientas" or peppers.

22 Amaranth fields were primarily located south of the lake area while corn was grown practically everywhere.

23 The Aztec taught the Spanish several ways to prepare tomatoes including cooked or mixed with peppers. The Spanish soon carried the seeds of this plant to Europe where it gained instant popularity. At first no one would eat the fruit of this plant and grew them strictly as decorations. Fear of the fruit was hard to overcome and as late at 1820 Robert Johnson of Salem, New Jersey publicly announced that he would eat a tomato on the steps of the city courthouse. Shocked townsfolk watched in horror as Mr. Johnson ate not one but a small basketful of tomatoes.

24 These were probably Dioscorea villosa, wild yams. Also known as colic root or rheumatism root. Wild yams were used medicinally as a diaphoretic and as a expectorant.

25 The cock turkey species that grew a blue wattle was thought to be an emblem of the deity Tezcatlipoca, and the gobbling sound made by this bird was a representation of his voice. Aztecs would display their symbols as a sign of reverence.

ducks(*28). People living outside the confines of the cities could always rely on hunting for other wild meat sources such as venison or rabbit. Insects as well as fish and a protein rich algae(*29) could be harvested from the lake areas(*30) and various streams. Varieties of beans were cultivated commercially and was a staple source for needed protein to the diet of the Mexica.

Some fruit production of the guava, (Psidium guajava), family, avocados, (Persea gratissima), and apples were combined with the heavy cultivation of the Maguay plant to provide needed diet supplements. An indigenous melon called "ayotli" was also harvested. The broad leaves of the nopal cactus, "tunafruit" were also consumed. Coconuts, (Cocos nucifera), were plentiful in the coastal regions which were conquered and under the control

____________________________________
26 Nicholson's MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY , p. 37, related that these bred dogs were called "Xoloitzcuintli" and is not to be confused with the well known Chihuahua. This Xoloitzcuintli was a much larger dog and is today believed to be the first domesticated animal in all of the Americas. The breed was almost extinct until recently a dog fancier, Norman Pelham Wright, was able to obtain a few pure animals and as of the writing of her book at least seventy had been registered with the Mexican kennel club. Innes, p. 140, relates the Aztecs would often fatten and castrate these dogs for the dinner table. Fat from these dogs was used medicinally to clean wounds, a treatment that the Spaniards adopted.

27 Pigs raised were only semi-domesticated often caught as wild piglets. Cottie Burland, GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO , p.80, relates stories of these piglets being treated very well, even breast-feeding from the Aztec women.

28 It is likely that the poorer or common Mexica saw little of domesticated meat sources and that the majority of the meat went to the Nobel classes. With the exception of those living in the rural areas and able to hunt, the common Mexica saw little meat in the daily diet.

29 Innes, p. 140, relates that this algae was formed into cakes and tasted much like a kind of cheese.

30 The lake area provided a wealth of ready food items for the Mexica. Gillmore, p. 7, relates many creative ways in using the animals and food sources. One interesting collection method involved stretching out nets to catch low flying birds. Wild marsh grasses were collected rich with the eggs of waterflies. The eggs were sun dried and made into a paste.

of the Mexica empire and probably made their way in the form of tribute to Tenochtitlan.

The mainstay of the Mexica diet was the tortilla, made from corn. The tradition continues today with little change. The kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone.

The dough is formed into little round balls and then patted out by hand into thin round cakes or wrapped in a corn husk, the tamale, to then fill and eat.

Ritual (*31) can not be ignored, there are just too many references to it's widespread use. Reports of human flesh for sale in the great marketplace and numerous reports in the various codices associated with the Mexica, indicate the serving of human flesh for consumption in conjunction with festivals.

The flesh(*32) of the sacrificed victims was cooked with corn in a broth, the stew was called "tlacatlaolli"(*33).

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31 The word cannibalism is Spanish in origin referring to the Carib Indians. Cannibalism was not limited to the New World and has been practiced by many societies for many different reasons. While in the New World it was primarily used to join with the victim or as a food source. In areas such as Tibet and Micronesia, the dead were honored by eating the corpse.

32 Cannibalism was well established with the ancient Chichimecs who were known to kill their fellows for the only purpose of eating. Diaz reports that in Mexica society the unwanted parts of the sacrificial victims would be sold in the marketplace as protein. A common cooking method was to stew human flesh with corn and serve the dish as "tlacatlaolli" , loosely meaning "human stew" .

After a sacrifice the captor was often given the corpse of the person he took in battle and provided a feast for his friends and relatives but did not eat the flesh of the victim as he considered the dead victim as "his beloved son" . Others at the party ate with no such feelings. The captor viewed the victim as his mirrored self.

33 According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213, human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this reason.

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in earthen jars being passed among Indians. An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano can be viewed on-line.

A favorite of the Mexica was the cacao bean(*34) which was roasted and ground, sometimes with parched corn, and added with water and beaten with a special stick to produce a frothy state. Cacao is also a source of fat(*35). This caffeine laden drink could then be flavored with honey or a wild vanilla(*36) extract to be consumed for either pleasure or as prescribed medicine.

Pulque(*37), a fermented alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant, is known to contain a generous portion of the helpful vitamin C and was also a favorite beverage, although drunkenness was punishable by death it did not seen to dampen the use of the drink and extensive private and public consumption was commonplace.

Maize was roasted to produce a form of popcorn(*38) and shelled peanuts were eaten by the population as well, and were probably enjoyed as a sort of "fun food" as snacks then, as much as they are consumed and in popular use today. Chewing gum was produced by the bitumen plant and used to clean the of the Mexica(*39).

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34 The cocoa bean was cultivated mostly in the coastal regions of the Tabasco and Veracruz regions as well as the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala. The cacao bean was a staple of tribute sent to Tenochtitlan as well as frequently used as a form of currency. The modern name cocoa is from the Mexica "chocolatl" . The unsweetened drink made from these beans was called "cacaoquahitl" and was made by simply boiling the dried beans in water. A second and tastier drink was called "chocolatl" and was thickened with vanilla, honey, and other spices.

..The following letter was sent to me through a discussion group I belong to and further details the subject of chocolate. FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE FOOD SECTION IN THE AZTEC LINK LIST. tom

. Actually, the Mexica called the drink by many names, depending on what recipe they were talking about, as chocolate could be (and was) served with all sorts of flavorings, including flowers, honey, ground chile, and many more ingredients. "Chocolatl" is not, though, a Nahuatl word. The more widely used name for cacao-based drinks among the Mexica was "cacauatl", which means "cacao water". The origin for our word "chocolate" appears to be a combination of Mayan and Nahuatl, as the Maya called their drink (which they preferred to drink hot, as opposed to the Mexica who apparently used it as a refreshment) "chocol ha", which literally means "hot water" in Yucatec. Since the Spaniards probably first came across the drink in the Maya area, it is probable that they picked the name "chocol ha" there, later changing the Mayan word for water ("ha") for the Nahuatl one ("atl"), thus forming the word "chocol atl" which was later changed to "chocolate" (there are plenty of examples in which Nahuatl words ending in "tl" were changed to a "te" ending by the Spaniards, who seem to have had a hard time with the pronunciation of Nahuatl words, to wit: tomate (originally "tomatl"), aguacate (originally, "ahuacatl"), cuate (originally "coatl"), metate ("¿metatl?"), etc.). As for the name of the fruit and its precious seeds ("cacao", from where the English word "cocoa" is derived), it probably is of Mixe-Zoquean origin, according to several linguists who have studied it. Its adoption in Mayan languages (in which it is written phonetically as ka-ka-w on vases and codices) is probably one of many things inherited by the Pre-Classic Maya from the Olmec.

I would unhesitatingly direct anybody interested in this subject to Sophie and Michael Coe's 'The True History of Chocolate" (Thames & Hudson, 1996).

Jorge Perez de Lara
Mexico


35 Yucatecs are known to have extracted a grease which was formed into a type of butter.

36 Vanilla beans, V. planifolia, derive from a wild orchid that grows wild in the lowlands of Eastern Mexico. The beans are harvested from a long thin pod that takes a year to grow. Of interest, the Mexican orchid is the only known orchid to be pollinated naturally, by bees, other world wide varieties must be pollinated by hand.

37 Pulque is actually a Spanish word as the Aztec made a form of wine called "Octli" , from this plant. Pulque may more resemble a form of what we may recognize as a type of beer.

38 Popcorn was called "momochitl" and was worn as a garland as well as other decorative uses.

39 Townsend, p. 172, related that snapping gum in public was considered rude or offensive.


AZTEC MEDICINE

The treatment of any illness could be approached from quite a few different angles including, physical treatment, drugs, or a spiritual cure. The herb knowledge was extensive and effective. The spiritual, or magical cures, were just as important and deserve equal study and consideration as they apply to general medical treatment.

The Aztec had a love-hate relationship with their deities and saw themselves as mere pawns in the hands of the gods. An illness could be seen as retribution for not strictly following a rather extensive set of daily homage routines. Sickness may also be inflicted for no other reason than the amusement of a particular deity.

Another form of divine intervention in the health of the Aztec was pre-ordained illness. The Aztec had a well established birth sign structure, much like modern astrology. Babies born during certain days were expected to develop into sickly children and die early of disease. Conversely babies born on other days could expect favor from the gods and live happy, disease free lives. Should one of these favored people develop illness, he or she surely must have forgotten to properly pay homage to the gods.

In a general sense, Aztec medical science was on an even par with contemporary medical science of the day in Europe. Often times the Aztecs, or more specifically the Mexica, were far superior in the identification and treatment of the various ailments that affected them. Like their medical counterparts in Europe(*1),

____________________
1 Europe, in some ways, was behind the New world in the progression of medicine. As late as 1530 such theories as the "Doctrine of Signatures" was being led by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus. This theory stated that plants looked like the disease they were intended to cure. For example a walnut looked like a brain, therefore, it must be good for the cure of brain ailments. Ody, p. 19. Paracelsus, real name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, ordered his followers in 1524 to burn books written by advocates of herb medicine, Kruger, p.157.

the Aztec practitioners tended to concentrate on treating the symptom and not the disease or cause of the illness(*2).

Dr. Michael Meyer relates that the Aztecs were even performing "brain operations" (*3). In general, the Mexica could be considered to have been a very healthy race of people with preventive health measures and in possession of a good sense of public sanitation as a part of their daily lives.

The mental health of the Aztec was certainly in need of improvement. Considering the extent of anxiety in the daily lives of the common individual, it is no wonder that so many of their drugs were prescribed for various stomach ailments. As a regular antacid user myself, I speak from experience when I say that anxiety affects your digestive track, and I don't even have to worry about giant rocks falling on my head or becoming claw-handed as a result of my birth sign.

The daily lives of the Aztec were so regulated and controlled that it would have been difficult to maintain any type of mental health that we would associate with. This breakdown of balance between the mind and the body could manifest itself in a number of physical ailments, and probably did.

With the exception of bleeding a patient, or setting broken bones, the Mexica concentrated on an (*4) approach to medicine, even maintaining extensive

_________________
2 The Aztecs were convinced that comets, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were some of the causes of illness, as well as offending various deities, particularly Tezcatliopoca.

3 Meyer, p. 79. Meyer does not reference his source for this statement. Wolfgang von Hagen, pp. 113-114, discusses the subject of skull trepanning as having been highly developed in the Inca society but found no references to the Aztecs developing such a practice.

4 As the Mexica tended to approach medicine from an herbal view, it is helpful to understand basic naturopathic terms and principals associated with herbs and the use of herbs in medicine. Listed here are the basic elements associated with a more modern naturopathic approach to healing with herbs.

ASTRINGENT - helps to close open wounds and stop fluid discharge.
ANTIEMETIC - used to control vomiting.
ANTISEPTIC - used to cleanse and ward off infection.
ANTISPASMODIC - used to relieve spasms.
DEMULCENT - inflammation relief.
DIURETIC - help with the flow of urine.
EMETIC - induce vomiting.
EMMENAGOGUE - help with menstruation flow.
EMOLLIENT - balm for inflamed skin.
FEBRIFUGE - fever control
LAXATIVE - constipation.
NERVINE - the nervous system treatment.
SEDATIVE - help with sleep and relaxation.
TONIC- revitalize and strengthen the whole body.

for growing some of the drugs that they used medicinally(*5).

Some fifteen hundred different plants, pastes, potions, and powders were catalogued soon after the conquest by a variety of historians. The Mexica were sophisticated enough to wrap flower petals around certain medicines to form a type of capsule, or "pill" for easy consumption(*6). Many of these medicinally used plants and herbs are still in use today and can be found in sidewalk drugstores(*7). Photographs of the disease are often posted along with the various jars, bags and other containers displayed, depicting the ailment the drug is intended to cure or provide some sort of relief.

____________________________________
5 Townsend, p. 170-171, relates the location of several tended gardens that may have produced some of the medicinal items used routinely by the Mexica. One was constructed by an engineer called Pinotel, commissioned by Moctezuma I, to build a garden near Huaxtepec. This garden was a horticultural experiment that successfully transplanted trees and herbs from the coastal regions to the Valley of Mexico. During the transplanting the gardeners would let blood over the planting area from their ears and fast for eight days. Gillmore, pp. 169-170 gives the spelling as Pinotl and relates the story in detail and assigns Pinotl as being a tribute collector from the Cuetlaxtlan region. Gillmore further relates in her notes, p. 236, that certain medicinal plants grown in this garden were cultivated after the conquest for a hospital in Mexico City run by Gregorio Lopez.

The lord of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, maintained an extensive medicinal garden of trees and therapeutic plants at Tetzcotzingo. Cortes wrote to King Charles V. of his observations of the extensive gardens at Ixtapalapan, as noted in his second letter to the King written in 1520. The great garden at Huaxtepec was discussed in his third letter.

7 The sidewalk drugstore I am most familiar with is located just outside the tourist zone in Nogalas Sonora and is just feet away from a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacy is full of tourists and what look like well off local residents, while the sidewalk vendor always seems to have a good crowd of what appear to be less economically stable local residents. The vendor had approximately 100 different large clear plastic bags and jars with various dried roots, powders, and herbs. I have also observed similar sidewalk drugstores throughout Asia.

The Mexica seemed not to encompass medicine into their long list of social taboo subjects, and approached the science with an open mind. The history of the Valley of Mexico teaches us that the area was a melting pot of cultures. For centuries various tribes from both North and South America settled and mingled in the fertile valley of central Mexico.

The various medicine practitioners must have sought each other out and traded recipes, stories and secrets. The discoveries made by each tribe were discussed, tried and experimented with. The good ones eventually would have been accepted into general daily practice. The Mexica even had a crude dental industry in practice. Common tooth decay among the Mexica was treated with crude fillings and drugs were used for anesthetic. Feather quills and cactus spines were used as simple instruments. Ground seeds and roots of the nettle plant was used for the treatment of festering gums(*8).

The general state of sanitary conditions in the streets, homes, and great ceremonial centers, located near the great city of Tenochtitlan, were exceptional and well regulated. Although I'm not sure this sanitation was done in the name of any health related regulation but rather a way to keep a large number of people gainfully employed and give the various deities a clean place to rest.

The city streets were well swept and kept clean(*9), drainage was well mastered, and most human waste was collected and disposed of or used in an agricultural manner(*10). The daily garbage generated by the large population of the city(*11) was treated in a like manner. Several reports by the conquering Spanish make reference to the cleanliness of the great city of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area.

____________________
8 Liquidamber styraciflua, or sweet gum (copal) was applied to a cheek in hot form for a common toothache. Vogel, pp. 378-9.

9 Meyer, p. 89, indicates that a crew of over a thousand people were daily assigned to the task of cleaning the city streets of the great Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.

10 Innes, p. 140, relates that canoes of human waste were taken up various creeks and sold for the manufacture of salt and skin curing. Urine was made into dye.

11 Buckets of human waste were routinely reported to have been seen sold in the marketplace for use as fertilizer. Human waste was barged with garbage out of the city. There must have been landfills and dumping areas. I have not been able to ascertain the locations of these Aztec "dumps" , however, a likely spot may have been on the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco near the Chimalhuacan area.

The common Mexica household maintained a good sense of personal hygiene and bathed often, once a day was common(*12). Aztec society before the arrival of the Spanish could be considered a healthy one. Medicine seemed to be confined strictly to the treatment of diseases, both physical and spiritual and not to physical (*13).

As soon as 1553, by royal order, the Spanish began to establish a system. This order called for the establishment of a hospital program to tend to the medical needs of ill Indians in the cities and countryside. By 1570 King Philip II had sent his personal doctor, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico who spent seven years in the study of the native plants of Mexico as well as a general study of Aztec medicine, and took his finding back to Spain(*14).

In 1580 Mexico City could boast four hospitals for Spaniards(*15), one hospital for the Indian population, and one hospital for Negroes and Mestizos(*16). Various groups of nuns and monasteries in Mexico began to open their doors and concentrate their energy on the health of Mexico.

____________________
12 One of the hardest traditions the early Spanish priests tried to break was the practice of adult men bathing with young girls and older women bathing with young males.

13 During an earthquake it was common practice to publicly sacrifice a hunchback, or other severely deformed, to stem the destruction. For this reason hunchbacks and other afflicted with physical deformities were well treated by society and kept close at hand.
14 He intended to publish his work but much of his work was destroyed. He did however collect information on over twelve hundred different plants used in medicine.

15 Apparently the hospitals were well funded. According to Lockhart, p. 216 & p. 284, one particular Mexico City hospital, Nuevstra Senora de la Concepcion, was supported by a large ranch it owned called Estancia of Mestepec in the western part of Ixtlahuaca. As of 1585 the estancia could boast possession of 10,400 sheep, as well as black slaves to run the ranch.

16 Meyer, p. 245. Meyer further relates that these hospitals were more like "rest homes" and provided only minimal treatments. The good Bishop Zumarraga established a hospital in Mexico City for the treatment of Venereal diseases with an asylum for the insane soon following. Even with the coming of European medicine the early Spanish colonists could only expect to live half as long as we do today.

In 1533 the Spanish crown was calling for anyone practicing medicine to have been examined by a qualified university to ascertain competence of the medical practitioner. In 1621 a department of surgery and anatomy was initiated at the University of Mexico. By 1791 there were barely two hundred and twenty one surgeons and barbers(*17) in Mexico to service the native population. Those practitioners were located mostly in the large cities with little contact with the rural areas(*18). Considering the large Indian population in the countryside, it is no wonder that ancient cures and medicines persisted into daily practice and can still be found to be in use in large sections of Mexico today.

Medicine in Mexico has never seemed to be a great burning political cause, or at least at other times than election periods. Even during the Mexican revolutionary period, 1910-1940, the population tended to place land reform and education above the health of the common people. The medical system in Mexico today still relies heavily upon ancient cures and the local midwives and medicine men. Fortunately for the poor many of these herbs, remedies and potions actually work.

This system of medicine provided a base for the formal medical community to build upon. Recent awareness of the importance of some of the old medicines has led to university level interest into the study and documentation of some of the ancient herbal remedies still in practice by the Indians of Mexico and other middle and South American Indian tribes. local medicine people are being contacted in rural areas of Mexico today and specimens tested for cancer relieving properties, tuberculosis, and a host of modern day ailments including AIDS research. One such program is funded by agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil(*19).

____________________
17 Surgeons, or the common official medical practitioner, was also a barber.

19 Current team researchers are from the University of Arizona, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, the Institute of Biological Resources in Argentina, the National University of Patagonia in Argentina, the Catholic University of Chile, the National University of Mexico and the American Cyanamid Company. This team is headed (as of this writing) by Barbara A. Timmermann professor of pharmacology/toxicology and arid lands studies, the University of Arizona. She has been studying and relating her finding of the subject of desert plants for 30 years. An article outlining this on-going research project with a photograph of Professor Timmermann is featured in THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR, p. 1 B, September 4, 1994. Professor Timmermann is known to lecture on the subject.

THE DIET OF THE MEXICA

The Mexica tended to eat quite well and adapted to their surrounding environment with ease(*20). Although there was limited year around fruit production in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were able to obtain necessary vitamins supplements of A and C from the various chilies they cultivated and used as condiments(*21). Although we tend to think of the Mexica as a strictly corn based society they cultivated another grain called "Huautli", or amaranth in large quantities(*22). Amaranth grain is high in protein and is today making a comeback in dietary popularity after centuries of lost general appeal. Cultivation of wild onions as well as tomatoes, called "xictomatl", and green tomatoes called "tomatl" (*23), were available as well as several squash varieties and mushrooms.


Cultivated root crops such as sweet potatoes, called "camotli"(*24), and the "jicama", a turnip like root, were served in a variety of meals. Meat was commercially raised and made available to the general population from the production of turkeys(*25), dogs(*26), mice, pigs(*27), wild sheep, and

____________________
20 In their early history, before the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica tribe was banished to a rocky and unwanted section of land in the lake area that was infested with rattlesnakes. The Mexica soon developed a taste for rattlesnake meat and thrived as a tribe.

21 Chili pods were mostly roasted and then ground into a powder. The Aztec would boil this powder with water to make a kind of sauce similar to modern Tabasco sauce. Chili is an Aztec word the Spanish called them "pimientas" or peppers.

22 Amaranth fields were primarily located south of the lake area while corn was grown practically everywhere.

23 The Aztec taught the Spanish several ways to prepare tomatoes including cooked or mixed with peppers. The Spanish soon carried the seeds of this plant to Europe where it gained instant popularity. At first no one would eat the fruit of this plant and grew them strictly as decorations. Fear of the fruit was hard to overcome and as late at 1820 Robert Johnson of Salem, New Jersey publicly announced that he would eat a tomato on the steps of the city courthouse. Shocked townsfolk watched in horror as Mr. Johnson ate not one but a small basketful of tomatoes.

24 These were probably Dioscorea villosa, wild yams. Also known as colic root or rheumatism root. Wild yams were used medicinally as a diaphoretic and as a expectorant.

25 The cock turkey species that grew a blue wattle was thought to be an emblem of the deity Tezcatlipoca, and the gobbling sound made by this bird was a representation of his voice. Aztecs would display their symbols as a sign of reverence.

ducks(*28). People living outside the confines of the cities could always rely on hunting for other wild meat sources such as venison or rabbit. Insects as well as fish and a protein rich algae(*29) could be harvested from the lake areas(*30) and various streams. Varieties of beans were cultivated commercially and was a staple source for needed protein to the diet of the Mexica.

Some fruit production of the guava, (Psidium guajava), family, avocados, (Persea gratissima), and apples were combined with the heavy cultivation of the Maguay plant to provide needed diet supplements. An indigenous melon called "ayotli" was also harvested. The broad leaves of the nopal cactus, "tunafruit" were also consumed. Coconuts, (Cocos nucifera), were plentiful in the coastal regions which were conquered and under the control

____________________________________
26 Nicholson's MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY , p. 37, related that these bred dogs were called "Xoloitzcuintli" and is not to be confused with the well known Chihuahua. This Xoloitzcuintli was a much larger dog and is today believed to be the first domesticated animal in all of the Americas. The breed was almost extinct until recently a dog fancier, Norman Pelham Wright, was able to obtain a few pure animals and as of the writing of her book at least seventy had been registered with the Mexican kennel club. Innes, p. 140, relates the Aztecs would often fatten and castrate these dogs for the dinner table. Fat from these dogs was used medicinally to clean wounds, a treatment that the Spaniards adopted.

27 Pigs raised were only semi-domesticated often caught as wild piglets. Cottie Burland, GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO , p.80, relates stories of these piglets being treated very well, even breast-feeding from the Aztec women.

28 It is likely that the poorer or common Mexica saw little of domesticated meat sources and that the majority of the meat went to the Nobel classes. With the exception of those living in the rural areas and able to hunt, the common Mexica saw little meat in the daily diet.

29 Innes, p. 140, relates that this algae was formed into cakes and tasted much like a kind of cheese.

30 The lake area provided a wealth of ready food items for the Mexica. Gillmore, p. 7, relates many creative ways in using the animals and food sources. One interesting collection method involved stretching out nets to catch low flying birds. Wild marsh grasses were collected rich with the eggs of waterflies. The eggs were sun dried and made into a paste.

of the Mexica empire and probably made their way in the form of tribute to Tenochtitlan.

The mainstay of the Mexica diet was the tortilla, made from corn. The tradition continues today with little change. The kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone.

The dough is formed into little round balls and then patted out by hand into thin round cakes or wrapped in a corn husk, the tamale, to then fill and eat.

Ritual (*31) can not be ignored, there are just too many references to it's widespread use. Reports of human flesh for sale in the great marketplace and numerous reports in the various codices associated with the Mexica, indicate the serving of human flesh for consumption in conjunction with festivals.

The flesh(*32) of the sacrificed victims was cooked with corn in a broth, the stew was called "tlacatlaolli"(*33).

____________________
31 The word cannibalism is Spanish in origin referring to the Carib Indians. Cannibalism was not limited to the New World and has been practiced by many societies for many different reasons. While in the New World it was primarily used to join with the victim or as a food source. In areas such as Tibet and Micronesia, the dead were honored by eating the corpse.

32 Cannibalism was well established with the ancient Chichimecs who were known to kill their fellows for the only purpose of eating. Diaz reports that in Mexica society the unwanted parts of the sacrificial victims would be sold in the marketplace as protein. A common cooking method was to stew human flesh with corn and serve the dish as "tlacatlaolli" , loosely meaning "human stew" .

After a sacrifice the captor was often given the corpse of the person he took in battle and provided a feast for his friends and relatives but did not eat the flesh of the victim as he considered the dead victim as "his beloved son" . Others at the party ate with no such feelings. The captor viewed the victim as his mirrored self.

33 According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213, human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this reason.

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in earthen jars being passed among Indians. An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano can be viewed on-line.

A favorite of the Mexica was the cacao bean(*34) which was roasted and ground, sometimes with parched corn, and added with water and beaten with a special stick to produce a frothy state. Cacao is also a source of fat(*35). This caffeine laden drink could then be flavored with honey or a wild vanilla(*36) extract to be consumed for either pleasure or as prescribed medicine.

Pulque(*37), a fermented alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant, is known to contain a generous portion of the helpful vitamin C and was also a favorite beverage, although drunkenness was punishable by death it did not seen to dampen the use of the drink and extensive private and public consumption was commonplace.

Maize was roasted to produce a form of popcorn(*38) and shelled peanuts were eaten by the population as well, and were probably enjoyed as a sort of "fun food" as snacks then, as much as they are consumed and in popular use today. Chewing gum was produced by the bitumen plant and used to clean the of the Mexica(*39).

____________________
34 The cocoa bean was cultivated mostly in the coastal regions of the Tabasco and Veracruz regions as well as the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala. The cacao bean was a staple of tribute sent to Tenochtitlan as well as frequently used as a form of currency. The modern name cocoa is from the Mexica "chocolatl" . The unsweetened drink made from these beans was called "cacaoquahitl" and was made by simply boiling the dried beans in water. A second and tastier drink was called "chocolatl" and was thickened with vanilla, honey, and other spices.

..The following letter was sent to me through a discussion group I belong to and further details the subject of chocolate. FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE FOOD SECTION IN THE AZTEC LINK LIST. tom

. Actually, the Mexica called the drink by many names, depending on what recipe they were talking about, as chocolate could be (and was) served with all sorts of flavorings, including flowers, honey, ground chile, and many more ingredients. "Chocolatl" is not, though, a Nahuatl word. The more widely used name for cacao-based drinks among the Mexica was "cacauatl", which means "cacao water". The origin for our word "chocolate" appears to be a combination of Mayan and Nahuatl, as the Maya called their drink (which they preferred to drink hot, as opposed to the Mexica who apparently used it as a refreshment) "chocol ha", which literally means "hot water" in Yucatec. Since the Spaniards probably first came across the drink in the Maya area, it is probable that they picked the name "chocol ha" there, later changing the Mayan word for water ("ha") for the Nahuatl one ("atl"), thus forming the word "chocol atl" which was later changed to "chocolate" (there are plenty of examples in which Nahuatl words ending in "tl" were changed to a "te" ending by the Spaniards, who seem to have had a hard time with the pronunciation of Nahuatl words, to wit: tomate (originally "tomatl"), aguacate (originally, "ahuacatl"), cuate (originally "coatl"), metate ("¿metatl?"), etc.). As for the name of the fruit and its precious seeds ("cacao", from where the English word "cocoa" is derived), it probably is of Mixe-Zoquean origin, according to several linguists who have studied it. Its adoption in Mayan languages (in which it is written phonetically as ka-ka-w on vases and codices) is probably one of many things inherited by the Pre-Classic Maya from the Olmec.

I would unhesitatingly direct anybody interested in this subject to Sophie and Michael Coe's 'The True History of Chocolate" (Thames & Hudson, 1996).

Jorge Perez de Lara
Mexico


35 Yucatecs are known to have extracted a grease which was formed into a type of butter.

36 Vanilla beans, V. planifolia, derive from a wild orchid that grows wild in the lowlands of Eastern Mexico. The beans are harvested from a long thin pod that takes a year to grow. Of interest, the Mexican orchid is the only known orchid to be pollinated naturally, by bees, other world wide varieties must be pollinated by hand.

37 Pulque is actually a Spanish word as the Aztec made a form of wine called "Octli" , from this plant. Pulque may more resemble a form of what we may recognize as a type of beer.

38 Popcorn was called "momochitl" and was worn as a garland as well as other decorative uses.

39 Townsend, p. 172, related that snapping gum in public was considered rude or offensive.


AZTEC MEDICINE

The treatment of any illness could be approached from quite a few different angles including, physical treatment, drugs, or a spiritual cure. The herb knowledge was extensive and effective. The spiritual, or magical cures, were just as important and deserve equal study and consideration as they apply to general medical treatment.

The Aztec had a love-hate relationship with their deities and saw themselves as mere pawns in the hands of the gods. An illness could be seen as retribution for not strictly following a rather extensive set of daily homage routines. Sickness may also be inflicted for no other reason than the amusement of a particular deity.

Another form of divine intervention in the health of the Aztec was pre-ordained illness. The Aztec had a well established birth sign structure, much like modern astrology. Babies born during certain days were expected to develop into sickly children and die early of disease. Conversely babies born on other days could expect favor from the gods and live happy, disease free lives. Should one of these favored people develop illness, he or she surely must have forgotten to properly pay homage to the gods.

In a general sense, Aztec medical science was on an even par with contemporary medical science of the day in Europe. Often times the Aztecs, or more specifically the Mexica, were far superior in the identification and treatment of the various ailments that affected them. Like their medical counterparts in Europe(*1),

____________________
1 Europe, in some ways, was behind the New world in the progression of medicine. As late as 1530 such theories as the "Doctrine of Signatures" was being led by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus. This theory stated that plants looked like the disease they were intended to cure. For example a walnut looked like a brain, therefore, it must be good for the cure of brain ailments. Ody, p. 19. Paracelsus, real name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, ordered his followers in 1524 to burn books written by advocates of herb medicine, Kruger, p.157.

the Aztec practitioners tended to concentrate on treating the symptom and not the disease or cause of the illness(*2).

Dr. Michael Meyer relates that the Aztecs were even performing "brain operations" (*3). In general, the Mexica could be considered to have been a very healthy race of people with preventive health measures and in possession of a good sense of public sanitation as a part of their daily lives.

The mental health of the Aztec was certainly in need of improvement. Considering the extent of anxiety in the daily lives of the common individual, it is no wonder that so many of their drugs were prescribed for various stomach ailments. As a regular antacid user myself, I speak from experience when I say that anxiety affects your digestive track, and I don't even have to worry about giant rocks falling on my head or becoming claw-handed as a result of my birth sign.

The daily lives of the Aztec were so regulated and controlled that it would have been difficult to maintain any type of mental health that we would associate with. This breakdown of balance between the mind and the body could manifest itself in a number of physical ailments, and probably did.

With the exception of bleeding a patient, or setting broken bones, the Mexica concentrated on an (*4) approach to medicine, even maintaining extensive

_________________
2 The Aztecs were convinced that comets, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were some of the causes of illness, as well as offending various deities, particularly Tezcatliopoca.

3 Meyer, p. 79. Meyer does not reference his source for this statement. Wolfgang von Hagen, pp. 113-114, discusses the subject of skull trepanning as having been highly developed in the Inca society but found no references to the Aztecs developing such a practice.

4 As the Mexica tended to approach medicine from an herbal view, it is helpful to understand basic naturopathic terms and principals associated with herbs and the use of herbs in medicine. Listed here are the basic elements associated with a more modern naturopathic approach to healing with herbs.

ASTRINGENT - helps to close open wounds and stop fluid discharge.
ANTIEMETIC - used to control vomiting.
ANTISEPTIC - used to cleanse and ward off infection.
ANTISPASMODIC - used to relieve spasms.
DEMULCENT - inflammation relief.
DIURETIC - help with the flow of urine.
EMETIC - induce vomiting.
EMMENAGOGUE - help with menstruation flow.
EMOLLIENT - balm for inflamed skin.
FEBRIFUGE - fever control
LAXATIVE - constipation.
NERVINE - the nervous system treatment.
SEDATIVE - help with sleep and relaxation.
TONIC- revitalize and strengthen the whole body.

for growing some of the drugs that they used medicinally(*5).

Some fifteen hundred different plants, pastes, potions, and powders were catalogued soon after the conquest by a variety of historians. The Mexica were sophisticated enough to wrap flower petals around certain medicines to form a type of capsule, or "pill" for easy consumption(*6). Many of these medicinally used plants and herbs are still in use today and can be found in sidewalk drugstores(*7). Photographs of the disease are often posted along with the various jars, bags and other containers displayed, depicting the ailment the drug is intended to cure or provide some sort of relief.

____________________________________
5 Townsend, p. 170-171, relates the location of several tended gardens that may have produced some of the medicinal items used routinely by the Mexica. One was constructed by an engineer called Pinotel, commissioned by Moctezuma I, to build a garden near Huaxtepec. This garden was a horticultural experiment that successfully transplanted trees and herbs from the coastal regions to the Valley of Mexico. During the transplanting the gardeners would let blood over the planting area from their ears and fast for eight days. Gillmore, pp. 169-170 gives the spelling as Pinotl and relates the story in detail and assigns Pinotl as being a tribute collector from the Cuetlaxtlan region. Gillmore further relates in her notes, p. 236, that certain medicinal plants grown in this garden were cultivated after the conquest for a hospital in Mexico City run by Gregorio Lopez.

The lord of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, maintained an extensive medicinal garden of trees and therapeutic plants at Tetzcotzingo. Cortes wrote to King Charles V. of his observations of the extensive gardens at Ixtapalapan, as noted in his second letter to the King written in 1520. The great garden at Huaxtepec was discussed in his third letter.

7 The sidewalk drugstore I am most familiar with is located just outside the tourist zone in Nogalas Sonora and is just feet away from a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacy is full of tourists and what look like well off local residents, while the sidewalk vendor always seems to have a good crowd of what appear to be less economically stable local residents. The vendor had approximately 100 different large clear plastic bags and jars with various dried roots, powders, and herbs. I have also observed similar sidewalk drugstores throughout Asia.

The Mexica seemed not to encompass medicine into their long list of social taboo subjects, and approached the science with an open mind. The history of the Valley of Mexico teaches us that the area was a melting pot of cultures. For centuries various tribes from both North and South America settled and mingled in the fertile valley of central Mexico.

The various medicine practitioners must have sought each other out and traded recipes, stories and secrets. The discoveries made by each tribe were discussed, tried and experimented with. The good ones eventually would have been accepted into general daily practice. The Mexica even had a crude dental industry in practice. Common tooth decay among the Mexica was treated with crude fillings and drugs were used for anesthetic. Feather quills and cactus spines were used as simple instruments. Ground seeds and roots of the nettle plant was used for the treatment of festering gums(*8).

The general state of sanitary conditions in the streets, homes, and great ceremonial centers, located near the great city of Tenochtitlan, were exceptional and well regulated. Although I'm not sure this sanitation was done in the name of any health related regulation but rather a way to keep a large number of people gainfully employed and give the various deities a clean place to rest.

The city streets were well swept and kept clean(*9), drainage was well mastered, and most human waste was collected and disposed of or used in an agricultural manner(*10). The daily garbage generated by the large population of the city(*11) was treated in a like manner. Several reports by the conquering Spanish make reference to the cleanliness of the great city of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area.

____________________
8 Liquidamber styraciflua, or sweet gum (copal) was applied to a cheek in hot form for a common toothache. Vogel, pp. 378-9.

9 Meyer, p. 89, indicates that a crew of over a thousand people were daily assigned to the task of cleaning the city streets of the great Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.

10 Innes, p. 140, relates that canoes of human waste were taken up various creeks and sold for the manufacture of salt and skin curing. Urine was made into dye.

11 Buckets of human waste were routinely reported to have been seen sold in the marketplace for use as fertilizer. Human waste was barged with garbage out of the city. There must have been landfills and dumping areas. I have not been able to ascertain the locations of these Aztec "dumps" , however, a likely spot may have been on the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco near the Chimalhuacan area.

The common Mexica household maintained a good sense of personal hygiene and bathed often, once a day was common(*12). Aztec society before the arrival of the Spanish could be considered a healthy one. Medicine seemed to be confined strictly to the treatment of diseases, both physical and spiritual and not to physical (*13).

As soon as 1553, by royal order, the Spanish began to establish a system. This order called for the establishment of a hospital program to tend to the medical needs of ill Indians in the cities and countryside. By 1570 King Philip II had sent his personal doctor, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico who spent seven years in the study of the native plants of Mexico as well as a general study of Aztec medicine, and took his finding back to Spain(*14).

In 1580 Mexico City could boast four hospitals for Spaniards(*15), one hospital for the Indian population, and one hospital for Negroes and Mestizos(*16). Various groups of nuns and monasteries in Mexico began to open their doors and concentrate their energy on the health of Mexico.

____________________
12 One of the hardest traditions the early Spanish priests tried to break was the practice of adult men bathing with young girls and older women bathing with young males.

13 During an earthquake it was common practice to publicly sacrifice a hunchback, or other severely deformed, to stem the destruction. For this reason hunchbacks and other afflicted with physical deformities were well treated by society and kept close at hand.
14 He intended to publish his work but much of his work was destroyed. He did however collect information on over twelve hundred different plants used in medicine.

15 Apparently the hospitals were well funded. According to Lockhart, p. 216 & p. 284, one particular Mexico City hospital, Nuevstra Senora de la Concepcion, was supported by a large ranch it owned called Estancia of Mestepec in the western part of Ixtlahuaca. As of 1585 the estancia could boast possession of 10,400 sheep, as well as black slaves to run the ranch.

16 Meyer, p. 245. Meyer further relates that these hospitals were more like "rest homes" and provided only minimal treatments. The good Bishop Zumarraga established a hospital in Mexico City for the treatment of Venereal diseases with an asylum for the insane soon following. Even with the coming of European medicine the early Spanish colonists could only expect to live half as long as we do today.

In 1533 the Spanish crown was calling for anyone practicing medicine to have been examined by a qualified university to ascertain competence of the medical practitioner. In 1621 a department of surgery and anatomy was initiated at the University of Mexico. By 1791 there were barely two hundred and twenty one surgeons and barbers(*17) in Mexico to service the native population. Those practitioners were located mostly in the large cities with little contact with the rural areas(*18). Considering the large Indian population in the countryside, it is no wonder that ancient cures and medicines persisted into daily practice and can still be found to be in use in large sections of Mexico today.

Medicine in Mexico has never seemed to be a great burning political cause, or at least at other times than election periods. Even during the Mexican revolutionary period, 1910-1940, the population tended to place land reform and education above the health of the common people. The medical system in Mexico today still relies heavily upon ancient cures and the local midwives and medicine men. Fortunately for the poor many of these herbs, remedies and potions actually work.

This system of medicine provided a base for the formal medical community to build upon. Recent awareness of the importance of some of the old medicines has led to university level interest into the study and documentation of some of the ancient herbal remedies still in practice by the Indians of Mexico and other middle and South American Indian tribes. local medicine people are being contacted in rural areas of Mexico today and specimens tested for cancer relieving properties, tuberculosis, and a host of modern day ailments including AIDS research. One such program is funded by agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil(*19).

____________________
17 Surgeons, or the common official medical practitioner, was also a barber.

19 Current team researchers are from the University of Arizona, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, the Institute of Biological Resources in Argentina, the National University of Patagonia in Argentina, the Catholic University of Chile, the National University of Mexico and the American Cyanamid Company. This team is headed (as of this writing) by Barbara A. Timmermann professor of pharmacology/toxicology and arid lands studies, the University of Arizona. She has been studying and relating her finding of the subject of desert plants for 30 years. An article outlining this on-going research project with a photograph of Professor Timmermann is featured in THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR, p. 1 B, September 4, 1994. Professor Timmermann is known to lecture on the subject.

THE DIET OF THE MEXICA

The Mexica tended to eat quite well and adapted to their surrounding environment with ease(*20). Although there was limited year around fruit production in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were able to obtain necessary vitamins supplements of A and C from the various chilies they cultivated and used as condiments(*21). Although we tend to think of the Mexica as a strictly corn based society they cultivated another grain called "Huautli", or amaranth in large quantities(*22). Amaranth grain is high in protein and is today making a comeback in dietary popularity after centuries of lost general appeal. Cultivation of wild onions as well as tomatoes, called "xictomatl", and green tomatoes called "tomatl" (*23), were available as well as several squash varieties and mushrooms.


Cultivated root crops such as sweet potatoes, called "camotli"(*24), and the "jicama", a turnip like root, were served in a variety of meals. Meat was commercially raised and made available to the general population from the production of turkeys(*25), dogs(*26), mice, pigs(*27), wild sheep, and

____________________
20 In their early history, before the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica tribe was banished to a rocky and unwanted section of land in the lake area that was infested with rattlesnakes. The Mexica soon developed a taste for rattlesnake meat and thrived as a tribe.

21 Chili pods were mostly roasted and then ground into a powder. The Aztec would boil this powder with water to make a kind of sauce similar to modern Tabasco sauce. Chili is an Aztec word the Spanish called them "pimientas" or peppers.

22 Amaranth fields were primarily located south of the lake area while corn was grown practically everywhere.

23 The Aztec taught the Spanish several ways to prepare tomatoes including cooked or mixed with peppers. The Spanish soon carried the seeds of this plant to Europe where it gained instant popularity. At first no one would eat the fruit of this plant and grew them strictly as decorations. Fear of the fruit was hard to overcome and as late at 1820 Robert Johnson of Salem, New Jersey publicly announced that he would eat a tomato on the steps of the city courthouse. Shocked townsfolk watched in horror as Mr. Johnson ate not one but a small basketful of tomatoes.

24 These were probably Dioscorea villosa, wild yams. Also known as colic root or rheumatism root. Wild yams were used medicinally as a diaphoretic and as a expectorant.

25 The cock turkey species that grew a blue wattle was thought to be an emblem of the deity Tezcatlipoca, and the gobbling sound made by this bird was a representation of his voice. Aztecs would display their symbols as a sign of reverence.

ducks(*28). People living outside the confines of the cities could always rely on hunting for other wild meat sources such as venison or rabbit. Insects as well as fish and a protein rich algae(*29) could be harvested from the lake areas(*30) and various streams. Varieties of beans were cultivated commercially and was a staple source for needed protein to the diet of the Mexica.

Some fruit production of the guava, (Psidium guajava), family, avocados, (Persea gratissima), and apples were combined with the heavy cultivation of the Maguay plant to provide needed diet supplements. An indigenous melon called "ayotli" was also harvested. The broad leaves of the nopal cactus, "tunafruit" were also consumed. Coconuts, (Cocos nucifera), were plentiful in the coastal regions which were conquered and under the control

____________________________________
26 Nicholson's MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY , p. 37, related that these bred dogs were called "Xoloitzcuintli" and is not to be confused with the well known Chihuahua. This Xoloitzcuintli was a much larger dog and is today believed to be the first domesticated animal in all of the Americas. The breed was almost extinct until recently a dog fancier, Norman Pelham Wright, was able to obtain a few pure animals and as of the writing of her book at least seventy had been registered with the Mexican kennel club. Innes, p. 140, relates the Aztecs would often fatten and castrate these dogs for the dinner table. Fat from these dogs was used medicinally to clean wounds, a treatment that the Spaniards adopted.

27 Pigs raised were only semi-domesticated often caught as wild piglets. Cottie Burland, GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO , p.80, relates stories of these piglets being treated very well, even breast-feeding from the Aztec women.

28 It is likely that the poorer or common Mexica saw little of domesticated meat sources and that the majority of the meat went to the Nobel classes. With the exception of those living in the rural areas and able to hunt, the common Mexica saw little meat in the daily diet.

29 Innes, p. 140, relates that this algae was formed into cakes and tasted much like a kind of cheese.

30 The lake area provided a wealth of ready food items for the Mexica. Gillmore, p. 7, relates many creative ways in using the animals and food sources. One interesting collection method involved stretching out nets to catch low flying birds. Wild marsh grasses were collected rich with the eggs of waterflies. The eggs were sun dried and made into a paste.

of the Mexica empire and probably made their way in the form of tribute to Tenochtitlan.

The mainstay of the Mexica diet was the tortilla, made from corn. The tradition continues today with little change. The kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone.

The dough is formed into little round balls and then patted out by hand into thin round cakes or wrapped in a corn husk, the tamale, to then fill and eat.

Ritual (*31) can not be ignored, there are just too many references to it's widespread use. Reports of human flesh for sale in the great marketplace and numerous reports in the various codices associated with the Mexica, indicate the serving of human flesh for consumption in conjunction with festivals.

The flesh(*32) of the sacrificed victims was cooked with corn in a broth, the stew was called "tlacatlaolli"(*33).

____________________
31 The word cannibalism is Spanish in origin referring to the Carib Indians. Cannibalism was not limited to the New World and has been practiced by many societies for many different reasons. While in the New World it was primarily used to join with the victim or as a food source. In areas such as Tibet and Micronesia, the dead were honored by eating the corpse.

32 Cannibalism was well established with the ancient Chichimecs who were known to kill their fellows for the only purpose of eating. Diaz reports that in Mexica society the unwanted parts of the sacrificial victims would be sold in the marketplace as protein. A common cooking method was to stew human flesh with corn and serve the dish as "tlacatlaolli" , loosely meaning "human stew" .

After a sacrifice the captor was often given the corpse of the person he took in battle and provided a feast for his friends and relatives but did not eat the flesh of the victim as he considered the dead victim as "his beloved son" . Others at the party ate with no such feelings. The captor viewed the victim as his mirrored self.

33 According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213, human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this reason.

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in earthen jars being passed among Indians. An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano can be viewed on-line.

A favorite of the Mexica was the cacao bean(*34) which was roasted and ground, sometimes with parched corn, and added with water and beaten with a special stick to produce a frothy state. Cacao is also a source of fat(*35). This caffeine laden drink could then be flavored with honey or a wild vanilla(*36) extract to be consumed for either pleasure or as prescribed medicine.

Pulque(*37), a fermented alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant, is known to contain a generous portion of the helpful vitamin C and was also a favorite beverage, although drunkenness was punishable by death it did not seen to dampen the use of the drink and extensive private and public consumption was commonplace.

Maize was roasted to produce a form of popcorn(*38) and shelled peanuts were eaten by the population as well, and were probably enjoyed as a sort of "fun food" as snacks then, as much as they are consumed and in popular use today. Chewing gum was produced by the bitumen plant and used to clean the of the Mexica(*39).

____________________
34 The cocoa bean was cultivated mostly in the coastal regions of the Tabasco and Veracruz regions as well as the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala. The cacao bean was a staple of tribute sent to Tenochtitlan as well as frequently used as a form of currency. The modern name cocoa is from the Mexica "chocolatl" . The unsweetened drink made from these beans was called "cacaoquahitl" and was made by simply boiling the dried beans in water. A second and tastier drink was called "chocolatl" and was thickened with vanilla, honey, and other spices.

..The following letter was sent to me through a discussion group I belong to and further details the subject of chocolate. FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE FOOD SECTION IN THE AZTEC LINK LIST. tom

. Actually, the Mexica called the drink by many names, depending on what recipe they were talking about, as chocolate could be (and was) served with all sorts of flavorings, including flowers, honey, ground chile, and many more ingredients. "Chocolatl" is not, though, a Nahuatl word. The more widely used name for cacao-based drinks among the Mexica was "cacauatl", which means "cacao water". The origin for our word "chocolate" appears to be a combination of Mayan and Nahuatl, as the Maya called their drink (which they preferred to drink hot, as opposed to the Mexica who apparently used it as a refreshment) "chocol ha", which literally means "hot water" in Yucatec. Since the Spaniards probably first came across the drink in the Maya area, it is probable that they picked the name "chocol ha" there, later changing the Mayan word for water ("ha") for the Nahuatl one ("atl"), thus forming the word "chocol atl" which was later changed to "chocolate" (there are plenty of examples in which Nahuatl words ending in "tl" were changed to a "te" ending by the Spaniards, who seem to have had a hard time with the pronunciation of Nahuatl words, to wit: tomate (originally "tomatl"), aguacate (originally, "ahuacatl"), cuate (originally "coatl"), metate ("¿metatl?"), etc.). As for the name of the fruit and its precious seeds ("cacao", from where the English word "cocoa" is derived), it probably is of Mixe-Zoquean origin, according to several linguists who have studied it. Its adoption in Mayan languages (in which it is written phonetically as ka-ka-w on vases and codices) is probably one of many things inherited by the Pre-Classic Maya from the Olmec.

I would unhesitatingly direct anybody interested in this subject to Sophie and Michael Coe's 'The True History of Chocolate" (Thames & Hudson, 1996).

Jorge Perez de Lara
Mexico


35 Yucatecs are known to have extracted a grease which was formed into a type of butter.

36 Vanilla beans, V. planifolia, derive from a wild orchid that grows wild in the lowlands of Eastern Mexico. The beans are harvested from a long thin pod that takes a year to grow. Of interest, the Mexican orchid is the only known orchid to be pollinated naturally, by bees, other world wide varieties must be pollinated by hand.

37 Pulque is actually a Spanish word as the Aztec made a form of wine called "Octli" , from this plant. Pulque may more resemble a form of what we may recognize as a type of beer.

38 Popcorn was called "momochitl" and was worn as a garland as well as other decorative uses.

39 Townsend, p. 172, related that snapping gum in public was considered rude or offensive.


AZTEC MEDICINE

The treatment of any illness could be approached from quite a few different angles including, physical treatment, drugs, or a spiritual cure. The herb knowledge was extensive and effective. The spiritual, or magical cures, were just as important and deserve equal study and consideration as they apply to general medical treatment.

The Aztec had a love-hate relationship with their deities and saw themselves as mere pawns in the hands of the gods. An illness could be seen as retribution for not strictly following a rather extensive set of daily homage routines. Sickness may also be inflicted for no other reason than the amusement of a particular deity.

Another form of divine intervention in the health of the Aztec was pre-ordained illness. The Aztec had a well established birth sign structure, much like modern astrology. Babies born during certain days were expected to develop into sickly children and die early of disease. Conversely babies born on other days could expect favor from the gods and live happy, disease free lives. Should one of these favored people develop illness, he or she surely must have forgotten to properly pay homage to the gods.

In a general sense, Aztec medical science was on an even par with contemporary medical science of the day in Europe. Often times the Aztecs, or more specifically the Mexica, were far superior in the identification and treatment of the various ailments that affected them. Like their medical counterparts in Europe(*1),

____________________
1 Europe, in some ways, was behind the New world in the progression of medicine. As late as 1530 such theories as the "Doctrine of Signatures" was being led by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus. This theory stated that plants looked like the disease they were intended to cure. For example a walnut looked like a brain, therefore, it must be good for the cure of brain ailments. Ody, p. 19. Paracelsus, real name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, ordered his followers in 1524 to burn books written by advocates of herb medicine, Kruger, p.157.

the Aztec practitioners tended to concentrate on treating the symptom and not the disease or cause of the illness(*2).

Dr. Michael Meyer relates that the Aztecs were even performing "brain operations" (*3). In general, the Mexica could be considered to have been a very healthy race of people with preventive health measures and in possession of a good sense of public sanitation as a part of their daily lives.

The mental health of the Aztec was certainly in need of improvement. Considering the extent of anxiety in the daily lives of the common individual, it is no wonder that so many of their drugs were prescribed for various stomach ailments. As a regular antacid user myself, I speak from experience when I say that anxiety affects your digestive track, and I don't even have to worry about giant rocks falling on my head or becoming claw-handed as a result of my birth sign.

The daily lives of the Aztec were so regulated and controlled that it would have been difficult to maintain any type of mental health that we would associate with. This breakdown of balance between the mind and the body could manifest itself in a number of physical ailments, and probably did.

With the exception of bleeding a patient, or setting broken bones, the Mexica concentrated on an (*4) approach to medicine, even maintaining extensive

_________________
2 The Aztecs were convinced that comets, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were some of the causes of illness, as well as offending various deities, particularly Tezcatliopoca.

3 Meyer, p. 79. Meyer does not reference his source for this statement. Wolfgang von Hagen, pp. 113-114, discusses the subject of skull trepanning as having been highly developed in the Inca society but found no references to the Aztecs developing such a practice.

4 As the Mexica tended to approach medicine from an herbal view, it is helpful to understand basic naturopathic terms and principals associated with herbs and the use of herbs in medicine. Listed here are the basic elements associated with a more modern naturopathic approach to healing with herbs.

ASTRINGENT - helps to close open wounds and stop fluid discharge.
ANTIEMETIC - used to control vomiting.
ANTISEPTIC - used to cleanse and ward off infection.
ANTISPASMODIC - used to relieve spasms.
DEMULCENT - inflammation relief.
DIURETIC - help with the flow of urine.
EMETIC - induce vomiting.
EMMENAGOGUE - help with menstruation flow.
EMOLLIENT - balm for inflamed skin.
FEBRIFUGE - fever control
LAXATIVE - constipation.
NERVINE - the nervous system treatment.
SEDATIVE - help with sleep and relaxation.
TONIC- revitalize and strengthen the whole body.

for growing some of the drugs that they used medicinally(*5).

Some fifteen hundred different plants, pastes, potions, and powders were catalogued soon after the conquest by a variety of historians. The Mexica were sophisticated enough to wrap flower petals around certain medicines to form a type of capsule, or "pill" for easy consumption(*6). Many of these medicinally used plants and herbs are still in use today and can be found in sidewalk drugstores(*7). Photographs of the disease are often posted along with the various jars, bags and other containers displayed, depicting the ailment the drug is intended to cure or provide some sort of relief.

____________________________________
5 Townsend, p. 170-171, relates the location of several tended gardens that may have produced some of the medicinal items used routinely by the Mexica. One was constructed by an engineer called Pinotel, commissioned by Moctezuma I, to build a garden near Huaxtepec. This garden was a horticultural experiment that successfully transplanted trees and herbs from the coastal regions to the Valley of Mexico. During the transplanting the gardeners would let blood over the planting area from their ears and fast for eight days. Gillmore, pp. 169-170 gives the spelling as Pinotl and relates the story in detail and assigns Pinotl as being a tribute collector from the Cuetlaxtlan region. Gillmore further relates in her notes, p. 236, that certain medicinal plants grown in this garden were cultivated after the conquest for a hospital in Mexico City run by Gregorio Lopez.

The lord of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, maintained an extensive medicinal garden of trees and therapeutic plants at Tetzcotzingo. Cortes wrote to King Charles V. of his observations of the extensive gardens at Ixtapalapan, as noted in his second letter to the King written in 1520. The great garden at Huaxtepec was discussed in his third letter.

7 The sidewalk drugstore I am most familiar with is located just outside the tourist zone in Nogalas Sonora and is just feet away from a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacy is full of tourists and what look like well off local residents, while the sidewalk vendor always seems to have a good crowd of what appear to be less economically stable local residents. The vendor had approximately 100 different large clear plastic bags and jars with various dried roots, powders, and herbs. I have also observed similar sidewalk drugstores throughout Asia.

The Mexica seemed not to encompass medicine into their long list of social taboo subjects, and approached the science with an open mind. The history of the Valley of Mexico teaches us that the area was a melting pot of cultures. For centuries various tribes from both North and South America settled and mingled in the fertile valley of central Mexico.

The various medicine practitioners must have sought each other out and traded recipes, stories and secrets. The discoveries made by each tribe were discussed, tried and experimented with. The good ones eventually would have been accepted into general daily practice. The Mexica even had a crude dental industry in practice. Common tooth decay among the Mexica was treated with crude fillings and drugs were used for anesthetic. Feather quills and cactus spines were used as simple instruments. Ground seeds and roots of the nettle plant was used for the treatment of festering gums(*8).

The general state of sanitary conditions in the streets, homes, and great ceremonial centers, located near the great city of Tenochtitlan, were exceptional and well regulated. Although I'm not sure this sanitation was done in the name of any health related regulation but rather a way to keep a large number of people gainfully employed and give the various deities a clean place to rest.

The city streets were well swept and kept clean(*9), drainage was well mastered, and most human waste was collected and disposed of or used in an agricultural manner(*10). The daily garbage generated by the large population of the city(*11) was treated in a like manner. Several reports by the conquering Spanish make reference to the cleanliness of the great city of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area.

____________________
8 Liquidamber styraciflua, or sweet gum (copal) was applied to a cheek in hot form for a common toothache. Vogel, pp. 378-9.

9 Meyer, p. 89, indicates that a crew of over a thousand people were daily assigned to the task of cleaning the city streets of the great Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.

10 Innes, p. 140, relates that canoes of human waste were taken up various creeks and sold for the manufacture of salt and skin curing. Urine was made into dye.

11 Buckets of human waste were routinely reported to have been seen sold in the marketplace for use as fertilizer. Human waste was barged with garbage out of the city. There must have been landfills and dumping areas. I have not been able to ascertain the locations of these Aztec "dumps" , however, a likely spot may have been on the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco near the Chimalhuacan area.

The common Mexica household maintained a good sense of personal hygiene and bathed often, once a day was common(*12). Aztec society before the arrival of the Spanish could be considered a healthy one. Medicine seemed to be confined strictly to the treatment of diseases, both physical and spiritual and not to physical (*13).

As soon as 1553, by royal order, the Spanish began to establish a system. This order called for the establishment of a hospital program to tend to the medical needs of ill Indians in the cities and countryside. By 1570 King Philip II had sent his personal doctor, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico who spent seven years in the study of the native plants of Mexico as well as a general study of Aztec medicine, and took his finding back to Spain(*14).

In 1580 Mexico City could boast four hospitals for Spaniards(*15), one hospital for the Indian population, and one hospital for Negroes and Mestizos(*16). Various groups of nuns and monasteries in Mexico began to open their doors and concentrate their energy on the health of Mexico.

____________________
12 One of the hardest traditions the early Spanish priests tried to break was the practice of adult men bathing with young girls and older women bathing with young males.

13 During an earthquake it was common practice to publicly sacrifice a hunchback, or other severely deformed, to stem the destruction. For this reason hunchbacks and other afflicted with physical deformities were well treated by society and kept close at hand.
14 He intended to publish his work but much of his work was destroyed. He did however collect information on over twelve hundred different plants used in medicine.

15 Apparently the hospitals were well funded. According to Lockhart, p. 216 & p. 284, one particular Mexico City hospital, Nuevstra Senora de la Concepcion, was supported by a large ranch it owned called Estancia of Mestepec in the western part of Ixtlahuaca. As of 1585 the estancia could boast possession of 10,400 sheep, as well as black slaves to run the ranch.

16 Meyer, p. 245. Meyer further relates that these hospitals were more like "rest homes" and provided only minimal treatments. The good Bishop Zumarraga established a hospital in Mexico City for the treatment of Venereal diseases with an asylum for the insane soon following. Even with the coming of European medicine the early Spanish colonists could only expect to live half as long as we do today.

In 1533 the Spanish crown was calling for anyone practicing medicine to have been examined by a qualified university to ascertain competence of the medical practitioner. In 1621 a department of surgery and anatomy was initiated at the University of Mexico. By 1791 there were barely two hundred and twenty one surgeons and barbers(*17) in Mexico to service the native population. Those practitioners were located mostly in the large cities with little contact with the rural areas(*18). Considering the large Indian population in the countryside, it is no wonder that ancient cures and medicines persisted into daily practice and can still be found to be in use in large sections of Mexico today.

Medicine in Mexico has never seemed to be a great burning political cause, or at least at other times than election periods. Even during the Mexican revolutionary period, 1910-1940, the population tended to place land reform and education above the health of the common people. The medical system in Mexico today still relies heavily upon ancient cures and the local midwives and medicine men. Fortunately for the poor many of these herbs, remedies and potions actually work.

This system of medicine provided a base for the formal medical community to build upon. Recent awareness of the importance of some of the old medicines has led to university level interest into the study and documentation of some of the ancient herbal remedies still in practice by the Indians of Mexico and other middle and South American Indian tribes. local medicine people are being contacted in rural areas of Mexico today and specimens tested for cancer relieving properties, tuberculosis, and a host of modern day ailments including AIDS research. One such program is funded by agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil(*19).

____________________
17 Surgeons, or the common official medical practitioner, was also a barber.

19 Current team researchers are from the University of Arizona, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, the Institute of Biological Resources in Argentina, the National University of Patagonia in Argentina, the Catholic University of Chile, the National University of Mexico and the American Cyanamid Company. This team is headed (as of this writing) by Barbara A. Timmermann professor of pharmacology/toxicology and arid lands studies, the University of Arizona. She has been studying and relating her finding of the subject of desert plants for 30 years. An article outlining this on-going research project with a photograph of Professor Timmermann is featured in THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR, p. 1 B, September 4, 1994. Professor Timmermann is known to lecture on the subject.

THE DIET OF THE MEXICA

The Mexica tended to eat quite well and adapted to their surrounding environment with ease(*20). Although there was limited year around fruit production in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were able to obtain necessary vitamins supplements of A and C from the various chilies they cultivated and used as condiments(*21). Although we tend to think of the Mexica as a strictly corn based society they cultivated another grain called "Huautli", or amaranth in large quantities(*22). Amaranth grain is high in protein and is today making a comeback in dietary popularity after centuries of lost general appeal. Cultivation of wild onions as well as tomatoes, called "xictomatl", and green tomatoes called "tomatl" (*23), were available as well as several squash varieties and mushrooms.


Cultivated root crops such as sweet potatoes, called "camotli"(*24), and the "jicama", a turnip like root, were served in a variety of meals. Meat was commercially raised and made available to the general population from the production of turkeys(*25), dogs(*26), mice, pigs(*27), wild sheep, and

____________________
20 In their early history, before the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica tribe was banished to a rocky and unwanted section of land in the lake area that was infested with rattlesnakes. The Mexica soon developed a taste for rattlesnake meat and thrived as a tribe.

21 Chili pods were mostly roasted and then ground into a powder. The Aztec would boil this powder with water to make a kind of sauce similar to modern Tabasco sauce. Chili is an Aztec word the Spanish called them "pimientas" or peppers.

22 Amaranth fields were primarily located south of the lake area while corn was grown practically everywhere.

23 The Aztec taught the Spanish several ways to prepare tomatoes including cooked or mixed with peppers. The Spanish soon carried the seeds of this plant to Europe where it gained instant popularity. At first no one would eat the fruit of this plant and grew them strictly as decorations. Fear of the fruit was hard to overcome and as late at 1820 Robert Johnson of Salem, New Jersey publicly announced that he would eat a tomato on the steps of the city courthouse. Shocked townsfolk watched in horror as Mr. Johnson ate not one but a small basketful of tomatoes.

24 These were probably Dioscorea villosa, wild yams. Also known as colic root or rheumatism root. Wild yams were used medicinally as a diaphoretic and as a expectorant.

25 The cock turkey species that grew a blue wattle was thought to be an emblem of the deity Tezcatlipoca, and the gobbling sound made by this bird was a representation of his voice. Aztecs would display their symbols as a sign of reverence.

ducks(*28). People living outside the confines of the cities could always rely on hunting for other wild meat sources such as venison or rabbit. Insects as well as fish and a protein rich algae(*29) could be harvested from the lake areas(*30) and various streams. Varieties of beans were cultivated commercially and was a staple source for needed protein to the diet of the Mexica.

Some fruit production of the guava, (Psidium guajava), family, avocados, (Persea gratissima), and apples were combined with the heavy cultivation of the Maguay plant to provide needed diet supplements. An indigenous melon called "ayotli" was also harvested. The broad leaves of the nopal cactus, "tunafruit" were also consumed. Coconuts, (Cocos nucifera), were plentiful in the coastal regions which were conquered and under the control

____________________________________
26 Nicholson's MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY , p. 37, related that these bred dogs were called "Xoloitzcuintli" and is not to be confused with the well known Chihuahua. This Xoloitzcuintli was a much larger dog and is today believed to be the first domesticated animal in all of the Americas. The breed was almost extinct until recently a dog fancier, Norman Pelham Wright, was able to obtain a few pure animals and as of the writing of her book at least seventy had been registered with the Mexican kennel club. Innes, p. 140, relates the Aztecs would often fatten and castrate these dogs for the dinner table. Fat from these dogs was used medicinally to clean wounds, a treatment that the Spaniards adopted.

27 Pigs raised were only semi-domesticated often caught as wild piglets. Cottie Burland, GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO , p.80, relates stories of these piglets being treated very well, even breast-feeding from the Aztec women.

28 It is likely that the poorer or common Mexica saw little of domesticated meat sources and that the majority of the meat went to the Nobel classes. With the exception of those living in the rural areas and able to hunt, the common Mexica saw little meat in the daily diet.

29 Innes, p. 140, relates that this algae was formed into cakes and tasted much like a kind of cheese.

30 The lake area provided a wealth of ready food items for the Mexica. Gillmore, p. 7, relates many creative ways in using the animals and food sources. One interesting collection method involved stretching out nets to catch low flying birds. Wild marsh grasses were collected rich with the eggs of waterflies. The eggs were sun dried and made into a paste.

of the Mexica empire and probably made their way in the form of tribute to Tenochtitlan.

The mainstay of the Mexica diet was the tortilla, made from corn. The tradition continues today with little change. The kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone.

The dough is formed into little round balls and then patted out by hand into thin round cakes or wrapped in a corn husk, the tamale, to then fill and eat.

Ritual (*31) can not be ignored, there are just too many references to it's widespread use. Reports of human flesh for sale in the great marketplace and numerous reports in the various codices associated with the Mexica, indicate the serving of human flesh for consumption in conjunction with festivals.

The flesh(*32) of the sacrificed victims was cooked with corn in a broth, the stew was called "tlacatlaolli"(*33).

____________________
31 The word cannibalism is Spanish in origin referring to the Carib Indians. Cannibalism was not limited to the New World and has been practiced by many societies for many different reasons. While in the New World it was primarily used to join with the victim or as a food source. In areas such as Tibet and Micronesia, the dead were honored by eating the corpse.

32 Cannibalism was well established with the ancient Chichimecs who were known to kill their fellows for the only purpose of eating. Diaz reports that in Mexica society the unwanted parts of the sacrificial victims would be sold in the marketplace as protein. A common cooking method was to stew human flesh with corn and serve the dish as "tlacatlaolli" , loosely meaning "human stew" .

After a sacrifice the captor was often given the corpse of the person he took in battle and provided a feast for his friends and relatives but did not eat the flesh of the victim as he considered the dead victim as "his beloved son" . Others at the party ate with no such feelings. The captor viewed the victim as his mirrored self.

33 According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213, human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this reason.

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in earthen jars being passed among Indians. An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano can be viewed on-line.

A favorite of the Mexica was the cacao bean(*34) which was roasted and ground, sometimes with parched corn, and added with water and beaten with a special stick to produce a frothy state. Cacao is also a source of fat(*35). This caffeine laden drink could then be flavored with honey or a wild vanilla(*36) extract to be consumed for either pleasure or as prescribed medicine.

Pulque(*37), a fermented alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant, is known to contain a generous portion of the helpful vitamin C and was also a favorite beverage, although drunkenness was punishable by death it did not seen to dampen the use of the drink and extensive private and public consumption was commonplace.

Maize was roasted to produce a form of popcorn(*38) and shelled peanuts were eaten by the population as well, and were probably enjoyed as a sort of "fun food" as snacks then, as much as they are consumed and in popular use today. Chewing gum was produced by the bitumen plant and used to clean the of the Mexica(*39).

____________________
34 The cocoa bean was cultivated mostly in the coastal regions of the Tabasco and Veracruz regions as well as the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala. The cacao bean was a staple of tribute sent to Tenochtitlan as well as frequently used as a form of currency. The modern name cocoa is from the Mexica "chocolatl" . The unsweetened drink made from these beans was called "cacaoquahitl" and was made by simply boiling the dried beans in water. A second and tastier drink was called "chocolatl" and was thickened with vanilla, honey, and other spices.

..The following letter was sent to me through a discussion group I belong to and further details the subject of chocolate. FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE FOOD SECTION IN THE AZTEC LINK LIST. tom

. Actually, the Mexica called the drink by many names, depending on what recipe they were talking about, as chocolate could be (and was) served with all sorts of flavorings, including flowers, honey, ground chile, and many more ingredients. "Chocolatl" is not, though, a Nahuatl word. The more widely used name for cacao-based drinks among the Mexica was "cacauatl", which means "cacao water". The origin for our word "chocolate" appears to be a combination of Mayan and Nahuatl, as the Maya called their drink (which they preferred to drink hot, as opposed to the Mexica who apparently used it as a refreshment) "chocol ha", which literally means "hot water" in Yucatec. Since the Spaniards probably first came across the drink in the Maya area, it is probable that they picked the name "chocol ha" there, later changing the Mayan word for water ("ha") for the Nahuatl one ("atl"), thus forming the word "chocol atl" which was later changed to "chocolate" (there are plenty of examples in which Nahuatl words ending in "tl" were changed to a "te" ending by the Spaniards, who seem to have had a hard time with the pronunciation of Nahuatl words, to wit: tomate (originally "tomatl"), aguacate (originally, "ahuacatl"), cuate (originally "coatl"), metate ("¿metatl?"), etc.). As for the name of the fruit and its precious seeds ("cacao", from where the English word "cocoa" is derived), it probably is of Mixe-Zoquean origin, according to several linguists who have studied it. Its adoption in Mayan languages (in which it is written phonetically as ka-ka-w on vases and codices) is probably one of many things inherited by the Pre-Classic Maya from the Olmec.

I would unhesitatingly direct anybody interested in this subject to Sophie and Michael Coe's 'The True History of Chocolate" (Thames & Hudson, 1996).

Jorge Perez de Lara
Mexico


35 Yucatecs are known to have extracted a grease which was formed into a type of butter.

36 Vanilla beans, V. planifolia, derive from a wild orchid that grows wild in the lowlands of Eastern Mexico. The beans are harvested from a long thin pod that takes a year to grow. Of interest, the Mexican orchid is the only known orchid to be pollinated naturally, by bees, other world wide varieties must be pollinated by hand.

37 Pulque is actually a Spanish word as the Aztec made a form of wine called "Octli" , from this plant. Pulque may more resemble a form of what we may recognize as a type of beer.

38 Popcorn was called "momochitl" and was worn as a garland as well as other decorative uses.

39 Townsend, p. 172, related that snapping gum in public was considered rude or offensive.


AZTEC MEDICINE

The treatment of any illness could be approached from quite a few different angles including, physical treatment, drugs, or a spiritual cure. The herb knowledge was extensive and effective. The spiritual, or magical cures, were just as important and deserve equal study and consideration as they apply to general medical treatment.

The Aztec had a love-hate relationship with their deities and saw themselves as mere pawns in the hands of the gods. An illness could be seen as retribution for not strictly following a rather extensive set of daily homage routines. Sickness may also be inflicted for no other reason than the amusement of a particular deity.

Another form of divine intervention in the health of the Aztec was pre-ordained illness. The Aztec had a well established birth sign structure, much like modern astrology. Babies born during certain days were expected to develop into sickly children and die early of disease. Conversely babies born on other days could expect favor from the gods and live happy, disease free lives. Should one of these favored people develop illness, he or she surely must have forgotten to properly pay homage to the gods.

In a general sense, Aztec medical science was on an even par with contemporary medical science of the day in Europe. Often times the Aztecs, or more specifically the Mexica, were far superior in the identification and treatment of the various ailments that affected them. Like their medical counterparts in Europe(*1),

____________________
1 Europe, in some ways, was behind the New world in the progression of medicine. As late as 1530 such theories as the "Doctrine of Signatures" was being led by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus. This theory stated that plants looked like the disease they were intended to cure. For example a walnut looked like a brain, therefore, it must be good for the cure of brain ailments. Ody, p. 19. Paracelsus, real name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, ordered his followers in 1524 to burn books written by advocates of herb medicine, Kruger, p.157.

the Aztec practitioners tended to concentrate on treating the symptom and not the disease or cause of the illness(*2).

Dr. Michael Meyer relates that the Aztecs were even performing "brain operations" (*3). In general, the Mexica could be considered to have been a very healthy race of people with preventive health measures and in possession of a good sense of public sanitation as a part of their daily lives.

The mental health of the Aztec was certainly in need of improvement. Considering the extent of anxiety in the daily lives of the common individual, it is no wonder that so many of their drugs were prescribed for various stomach ailments. As a regular antacid user myself, I speak from experience when I say that anxiety affects your digestive track, and I don't even have to worry about giant rocks falling on my head or becoming claw-handed as a result of my birth sign.

The daily lives of the Aztec were so regulated and controlled that it would have been difficult to maintain any type of mental health that we would associate with. This breakdown of balance between the mind and the body could manifest itself in a number of physical ailments, and probably did.

With the exception of bleeding a patient, or setting broken bones, the Mexica concentrated on an (*4) approach to medicine, even maintaining extensive

_________________
2 The Aztecs were convinced that comets, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were some of the causes of illness, as well as offending various deities, particularly Tezcatliopoca.

3 Meyer, p. 79. Meyer does not reference his source for this statement. Wolfgang von Hagen, pp. 113-114, discusses the subject of skull trepanning as having been highly developed in the Inca society but found no references to the Aztecs developing such a practice.

4 As the Mexica tended to approach medicine from an herbal view, it is helpful to understand basic naturopathic terms and principals associated with herbs and the use of herbs in medicine. Listed here are the basic elements associated with a more modern naturopathic approach to healing with herbs.

ASTRINGENT - helps to close open wounds and stop fluid discharge.
ANTIEMETIC - used to control vomiting.
ANTISEPTIC - used to cleanse and ward off infection.
ANTISPASMODIC - used to relieve spasms.
DEMULCENT - inflammation relief.
DIURETIC - help with the flow of urine.
EMETIC - induce vomiting.
EMMENAGOGUE - help with menstruation flow.
EMOLLIENT - balm for inflamed skin.
FEBRIFUGE - fever control
LAXATIVE - constipation.
NERVINE - the nervous system treatment.
SEDATIVE - help with sleep and relaxation.
TONIC- revitalize and strengthen the whole body.

for growing some of the drugs that they used medicinally(*5).

Some fifteen hundred different plants, pastes, potions, and powders were catalogued soon after the conquest by a variety of historians. The Mexica were sophisticated enough to wrap flower petals around certain medicines to form a type of capsule, or "pill" for easy consumption(*6). Many of these medicinally used plants and herbs are still in use today and can be found in sidewalk drugstores(*7). Photographs of the disease are often posted along with the various jars, bags and other containers displayed, depicting the ailment the drug is intended to cure or provide some sort of relief.

____________________________________
5 Townsend, p. 170-171, relates the location of several tended gardens that may have produced some of the medicinal items used routinely by the Mexica. One was constructed by an engineer called Pinotel, commissioned by Moctezuma I, to build a garden near Huaxtepec. This garden was a horticultural experiment that successfully transplanted trees and herbs from the coastal regions to the Valley of Mexico. During the transplanting the gardeners would let blood over the planting area from their ears and fast for eight days. Gillmore, pp. 169-170 gives the spelling as Pinotl and relates the story in detail and assigns Pinotl as being a tribute collector from the Cuetlaxtlan region. Gillmore further relates in her notes, p. 236, that certain medicinal plants grown in this garden were cultivated after the conquest for a hospital in Mexico City run by Gregorio Lopez.

The lord of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, maintained an extensive medicinal garden of trees and therapeutic plants at Tetzcotzingo. Cortes wrote to King Charles V. of his observations of the extensive gardens at Ixtapalapan, as noted in his second letter to the King written in 1520. The great garden at Huaxtepec was discussed in his third letter.

7 The sidewalk drugstore I am most familiar with is located just outside the tourist zone in Nogalas Sonora and is just feet away from a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacy is full of tourists and what look like well off local residents, while the sidewalk vendor always seems to have a good crowd of what appear to be less economically stable local residents. The vendor had approximately 100 different large clear plastic bags and jars with various dried roots, powders, and herbs. I have also observed similar sidewalk drugstores throughout Asia.

The Mexica seemed not to encompass medicine into their long list of social taboo subjects, and approached the science with an open mind. The history of the Valley of Mexico teaches us that the area was a melting pot of cultures. For centuries various tribes from both North and South America settled and mingled in the fertile valley of central Mexico.

The various medicine practitioners must have sought each other out and traded recipes, stories and secrets. The discoveries made by each tribe were discussed, tried and experimented with. The good ones eventually would have been accepted into general daily practice. The Mexica even had a crude dental industry in practice. Common tooth decay among the Mexica was treated with crude fillings and drugs were used for anesthetic. Feather quills and cactus spines were used as simple instruments. Ground seeds and roots of the nettle plant was used for the treatment of festering gums(*8).

The general state of sanitary conditions in the streets, homes, and great ceremonial centers, located near the great city of Tenochtitlan, were exceptional and well regulated. Although I'm not sure this sanitation was done in the name of any health related regulation but rather a way to keep a large number of people gainfully employed and give the various deities a clean place to rest.

The city streets were well swept and kept clean(*9), drainage was well mastered, and most human waste was collected and disposed of or used in an agricultural manner(*10). The daily garbage generated by the large population of the city(*11) was treated in a like manner. Several reports by the conquering Spanish make reference to the cleanliness of the great city of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area.

____________________
8 Liquidamber styraciflua, or sweet gum (copal) was applied to a cheek in hot form for a common toothache. Vogel, pp. 378-9.

9 Meyer, p. 89, indicates that a crew of over a thousand people were daily assigned to the task of cleaning the city streets of the great Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.

10 Innes, p. 140, relates that canoes of human waste were taken up various creeks and sold for the manufacture of salt and skin curing. Urine was made into dye.

11 Buckets of human waste were routinely reported to have been seen sold in the marketplace for use as fertilizer. Human waste was barged with garbage out of the city. There must have been landfills and dumping areas. I have not been able to ascertain the locations of these Aztec "dumps" , however, a likely spot may have been on the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco near the Chimalhuacan area.

The common Mexica household maintained a good sense of personal hygiene and bathed often, once a day was common(*12). Aztec society before the arrival of the Spanish could be considered a healthy one. Medicine seemed to be confined strictly to the treatment of diseases, both physical and spiritual and not to physical (*13).

As soon as 1553, by royal order, the Spanish began to establish a system. This order called for the establishment of a hospital program to tend to the medical needs of ill Indians in the cities and countryside. By 1570 King Philip II had sent his personal doctor, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico who spent seven years in the study of the native plants of Mexico as well as a general study of Aztec medicine, and took his finding back to Spain(*14).

In 1580 Mexico City could boast four hospitals for Spaniards(*15), one hospital for the Indian population, and one hospital for Negroes and Mestizos(*16). Various groups of nuns and monasteries in Mexico began to open their doors and concentrate their energy on the health of Mexico.

____________________
12 One of the hardest traditions the early Spanish priests tried to break was the practice of adult men bathing with young girls and older women bathing with young males.

13 During an earthquake it was common practice to publicly sacrifice a hunchback, or other severely deformed, to stem the destruction. For this reason hunchbacks and other afflicted with physical deformities were well treated by society and kept close at hand.
14 He intended to publish his work but much of his work was destroyed. He did however collect information on over twelve hundred different plants used in medicine.

15 Apparently the hospitals were well funded. According to Lockhart, p. 216 & p. 284, one particular Mexico City hospital, Nuevstra Senora de la Concepcion, was supported by a large ranch it owned called Estancia of Mestepec in the western part of Ixtlahuaca. As of 1585 the estancia could boast possession of 10,400 sheep, as well as black slaves to run the ranch.

16 Meyer, p. 245. Meyer further relates that these hospitals were more like "rest homes" and provided only minimal treatments. The good Bishop Zumarraga established a hospital in Mexico City for the treatment of Venereal diseases with an asylum for the insane soon following. Even with the coming of European medicine the early Spanish colonists could only expect to live half as long as we do today.

In 1533 the Spanish crown was calling for anyone practicing medicine to have been examined by a qualified university to ascertain competence of the medical practitioner. In 1621 a department of surgery and anatomy was initiated at the University of Mexico. By 1791 there were barely two hundred and twenty one surgeons and barbers(*17) in Mexico to service the native population. Those practitioners were located mostly in the large cities with little contact with the rural areas(*18). Considering the large Indian population in the countryside, it is no wonder that ancient cures and medicines persisted into daily practice and can still be found to be in use in large sections of Mexico today.

Medicine in Mexico has never seemed to be a great burning political cause, or at least at other times than election periods. Even during the Mexican revolutionary period, 1910-1940, the population tended to place land reform and education above the health of the common people. The medical system in Mexico today still relies heavily upon ancient cures and the local midwives and medicine men. Fortunately for the poor many of these herbs, remedies and potions actually work.

This system of medicine provided a base for the formal medical community to build upon. Recent awareness of the importance of some of the old medicines has led to university level interest into the study and documentation of some of the ancient herbal remedies still in practice by the Indians of Mexico and other middle and South American Indian tribes. local medicine people are being contacted in rural areas of Mexico today and specimens tested for cancer relieving properties, tuberculosis, and a host of modern day ailments including AIDS research. One such program is funded by agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil(*19).

____________________
17 Surgeons, or the common official medical practitioner, was also a barber.

19 Current team researchers are from the University of Arizona, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, the Institute of Biological Resources in Argentina, the National University of Patagonia in Argentina, the Catholic University of Chile, the National University of Mexico and the American Cyanamid Company. This team is headed (as of this writing) by Barbara A. Timmermann professor of pharmacology/toxicology and arid lands studies, the University of Arizona. She has been studying and relating her finding of the subject of desert plants for 30 years. An article outlining this on-going research project with a photograph of Professor Timmermann is featured in THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR, p. 1 B, September 4, 1994. Professor Timmermann is known to lecture on the subject.

THE DIET OF THE MEXICA

The Mexica tended to eat quite well and adapted to their surrounding environment with ease(*20). Although there was limited year around fruit production in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were able to obtain necessary vitamins supplements of A and C from the various chilies they cultivated and used as condiments(*21). Although we tend to think of the Mexica as a strictly corn based society they cultivated another grain called "Huautli", or amaranth in large quantities(*22). Amaranth grain is high in protein and is today making a comeback in dietary popularity after centuries of lost general appeal. Cultivation of wild onions as well as tomatoes, called "xictomatl", and green tomatoes called "tomatl" (*23), were available as well as several squash varieties and mushrooms.


Cultivated root crops such as sweet potatoes, called "camotli"(*24), and the "jicama", a turnip like root, were served in a variety of meals. Meat was commercially raised and made available to the general population from the production of turkeys(*25), dogs(*26), mice, pigs(*27), wild sheep, and

____________________
20 In their early history, before the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica tribe was banished to a rocky and unwanted section of land in the lake area that was infested with rattlesnakes. The Mexica soon developed a taste for rattlesnake meat and thrived as a tribe.

21 Chili pods were mostly roasted and then ground into a powder. The Aztec would boil this powder with water to make a kind of sauce similar to modern Tabasco sauce. Chili is an Aztec word the Spanish called them "pimientas" or peppers.

22 Amaranth fields were primarily located south of the lake area while corn was grown practically everywhere.

23 The Aztec taught the Spanish several ways to prepare tomatoes including cooked or mixed with peppers. The Spanish soon carried the seeds of this plant to Europe where it gained instant popularity. At first no one would eat the fruit of this plant and grew them strictly as decorations. Fear of the fruit was hard to overcome and as late at 1820 Robert Johnson of Salem, New Jersey publicly announced that he would eat a tomato on the steps of the city courthouse. Shocked townsfolk watched in horror as Mr. Johnson ate not one but a small basketful of tomatoes.

24 These were probably Dioscorea villosa, wild yams. Also known as colic root or rheumatism root. Wild yams were used medicinally as a diaphoretic and as a expectorant.

25 The cock turkey species that grew a blue wattle was thought to be an emblem of the deity Tezcatlipoca, and the gobbling sound made by this bird was a representation of his voice. Aztecs would display their symbols as a sign of reverence.

ducks(*28). People living outside the confines of the cities could always rely on hunting for other wild meat sources such as venison or rabbit. Insects as well as fish and a protein rich algae(*29) could be harvested from the lake areas(*30) and various streams. Varieties of beans were cultivated commercially and was a staple source for needed protein to the diet of the Mexica.

Some fruit production of the guava, (Psidium guajava), family, avocados, (Persea gratissima), and apples were combined with the heavy cultivation of the Maguay plant to provide needed diet supplements. An indigenous melon called "ayotli" was also harvested. The broad leaves of the nopal cactus, "tunafruit" were also consumed. Coconuts, (Cocos nucifera), were plentiful in the coastal regions which were conquered and under the control

____________________________________
26 Nicholson's MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY , p. 37, related that these bred dogs were called "Xoloitzcuintli" and is not to be confused with the well known Chihuahua. This Xoloitzcuintli was a much larger dog and is today believed to be the first domesticated animal in all of the Americas. The breed was almost extinct until recently a dog fancier, Norman Pelham Wright, was able to obtain a few pure animals and as of the writing of her book at least seventy had been registered with the Mexican kennel club. Innes, p. 140, relates the Aztecs would often fatten and castrate these dogs for the dinner table. Fat from these dogs was used medicinally to clean wounds, a treatment that the Spaniards adopted.

27 Pigs raised were only semi-domesticated often caught as wild piglets. Cottie Burland, GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO , p.80, relates stories of these piglets being treated very well, even breast-feeding from the Aztec women.

28 It is likely that the poorer or common Mexica saw little of domesticated meat sources and that the majority of the meat went to the Nobel classes. With the exception of those living in the rural areas and able to hunt, the common Mexica saw little meat in the daily diet.

29 Innes, p. 140, relates that this algae was formed into cakes and tasted much like a kind of cheese.

30 The lake area provided a wealth of ready food items for the Mexica. Gillmore, p. 7, relates many creative ways in using the animals and food sources. One interesting collection method involved stretching out nets to catch low flying birds. Wild marsh grasses were collected rich with the eggs of waterflies. The eggs were sun dried and made into a paste.

of the Mexica empire and probably made their way in the form of tribute to Tenochtitlan.

The mainstay of the Mexica diet was the tortilla, made from corn. The tradition continues today with little change. The kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone.

The dough is formed into little round balls and then patted out by hand into thin round cakes or wrapped in a corn husk, the tamale, to then fill and eat.

Ritual (*31) can not be ignored, there are just too many references to it's widespread use. Reports of human flesh for sale in the great marketplace and numerous reports in the various codices associated with the Mexica, indicate the serving of human flesh for consumption in conjunction with festivals.

The flesh(*32) of the sacrificed victims was cooked with corn in a broth, the stew was called "tlacatlaolli"(*33).

____________________
31 The word cannibalism is Spanish in origin referring to the Carib Indians. Cannibalism was not limited to the New World and has been practiced by many societies for many different reasons. While in the New World it was primarily used to join with the victim or as a food source. In areas such as Tibet and Micronesia, the dead were honored by eating the corpse.

32 Cannibalism was well established with the ancient Chichimecs who were known to kill their fellows for the only purpose of eating. Diaz reports that in Mexica society the unwanted parts of the sacrificial victims would be sold in the marketplace as protein. A common cooking method was to stew human flesh with corn and serve the dish as "tlacatlaolli" , loosely meaning "human stew" .

After a sacrifice the captor was often given the corpse of the person he took in battle and provided a feast for his friends and relatives but did not eat the flesh of the victim as he considered the dead victim as "his beloved son" . Others at the party ate with no such feelings. The captor viewed the victim as his mirrored self.

33 According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213, human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this reason.

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in earthen jars being passed among Indians. An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano can be viewed on-line.

A favorite of the Mexica was the cacao bean(*34) which was roasted and ground, sometimes with parched corn, and added with water and beaten with a special stick to produce a frothy state. Cacao is also a source of fat(*35). This caffeine laden drink could then be flavored with honey or a wild vanilla(*36) extract to be consumed for either pleasure or as prescribed medicine.

Pulque(*37), a fermented alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant, is known to contain a generous portion of the helpful vitamin C and was also a favorite beverage, although drunkenness was punishable by death it did not seen to dampen the use of the drink and extensive private and public consumption was commonplace.

Maize was roasted to produce a form of popcorn(*38) and shelled peanuts were eaten by the population as well, and were probably enjoyed as a sort of "fun food" as snacks then, as much as they are consumed and in popular use today. Chewing gum was produced by the bitumen plant and used to clean the of the Mexica(*39).

____________________
34 The cocoa bean was cultivated mostly in the coastal regions of the Tabasco and Veracruz regions as well as the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala. The cacao bean was a staple of tribute sent to Tenochtitlan as well as frequently used as a form of currency. The modern name cocoa is from the Mexica "chocolatl" . The unsweetened drink made from these beans was called "cacaoquahitl" and was made by simply boiling the dried beans in water. A second and tastier drink was called "chocolatl" and was thickened with vanilla, honey, and other spices.

..The following letter was sent to me through a discussion group I belong to and further details the subject of chocolate. FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE FOOD SECTION IN THE AZTEC LINK LIST. tom

. Actually, the Mexica called the drink by many names, depending on what recipe they were talking about, as chocolate could be (and was) served with all sorts of flavorings, including flowers, honey, ground chile, and many more ingredients. "Chocolatl" is not, though, a Nahuatl word. The more widely used name for cacao-based drinks among the Mexica was "cacauatl", which means "cacao water". The origin for our word "chocolate" appears to be a combination of Mayan and Nahuatl, as the Maya called their drink (which they preferred to drink hot, as opposed to the Mexica who apparently used it as a refreshment) "chocol ha", which literally means "hot water" in Yucatec. Since the Spaniards probably first came across the drink in the Maya area, it is probable that they picked the name "chocol ha" there, later changing the Mayan word for water ("ha") for the Nahuatl one ("atl"), thus forming the word "chocol atl" which was later changed to "chocolate" (there are plenty of examples in which Nahuatl words ending in "tl" were changed to a "te" ending by the Spaniards, who seem to have had a hard time with the pronunciation of Nahuatl words, to wit: tomate (originally "tomatl"), aguacate (originally, "ahuacatl"), cuate (originally "coatl"), metate ("¿metatl?"), etc.). As for the name of the fruit and its precious seeds ("cacao", from where the English word "cocoa" is derived), it probably is of Mixe-Zoquean origin, according to several linguists who have studied it. Its adoption in Mayan languages (in which it is written phonetically as ka-ka-w on vases and codices) is probably one of many things inherited by the Pre-Classic Maya from the Olmec.

I would unhesitatingly direct anybody interested in this subject to Sophie and Michael Coe's 'The True History of Chocolate" (Thames & Hudson, 1996).

Jorge Perez de Lara
Mexico


35 Yucatecs are known to have extracted a grease which was formed into a type of butter.

36 Vanilla beans, V. planifolia, derive from a wild orchid that grows wild in the lowlands of Eastern Mexico. The beans are harvested from a long thin pod that takes a year to grow. Of interest, the Mexican orchid is the only known orchid to be pollinated naturally, by bees, other world wide varieties must be pollinated by hand.

37 Pulque is actually a Spanish word as the Aztec made a form of wine called "Octli" , from this plant. Pulque may more resemble a form of what we may recognize as a type of beer.

38 Popcorn was called "momochitl" and was worn as a garland as well as other decorative uses.

39 Townsend, p. 172, related that snapping gum in public was considered rude or offensive.


AZTEC MEDICINE

The treatment of any illness could be approached from quite a few different angles including, physical treatment, drugs, or a spiritual cure. The herb knowledge was extensive and effective. The spiritual, or magical cures, were just as important and deserve equal study and consideration as they apply to general medical treatment.

The Aztec had a love-hate relationship with their deities and saw themselves as mere pawns in the hands of the gods. An illness could be seen as retribution for not strictly following a rather extensive set of daily homage routines. Sickness may also be inflicted for no other reason than the amusement of a particular deity.

Another form of divine intervention in the health of the Aztec was pre-ordained illness. The Aztec had a well established birth sign structure, much like modern astrology. Babies born during certain days were expected to develop into sickly children and die early of disease. Conversely babies born on other days could expect favor from the gods and live happy, disease free lives. Should one of these favored people develop illness, he or she surely must have forgotten to properly pay homage to the gods.

In a general sense, Aztec medical science was on an even par with contemporary medical science of the day in Europe. Often times the Aztecs, or more specifically the Mexica, were far superior in the identification and treatment of the various ailments that affected them. Like their medical counterparts in Europe(*1),

____________________
1 Europe, in some ways, was behind the New world in the progression of medicine. As late as 1530 such theories as the "Doctrine of Signatures" was being led by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus. This theory stated that plants looked like the disease they were intended to cure. For example a walnut looked like a brain, therefore, it must be good for the cure of brain ailments. Ody, p. 19. Paracelsus, real name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, ordered his followers in 1524 to burn books written by advocates of herb medicine, Kruger, p.157.

the Aztec practitioners tended to concentrate on treating the symptom and not the disease or cause of the illness(*2).

Dr. Michael Meyer relates that the Aztecs were even performing "brain operations" (*3). In general, the Mexica could be considered to have been a very healthy race of people with preventive health measures and in possession of a good sense of public sanitation as a part of their daily lives.

The mental health of the Aztec was certainly in need of improvement. Considering the extent of anxiety in the daily lives of the common individual, it is no wonder that so many of their drugs were prescribed for various stomach ailments. As a regular antacid user myself, I speak from experience when I say that anxiety affects your digestive track, and I don't even have to worry about giant rocks falling on my head or becoming claw-handed as a result of my birth sign.

The daily lives of the Aztec were so regulated and controlled that it would have been difficult to maintain any type of mental health that we would associate with. This breakdown of balance between the mind and the body could manifest itself in a number of physical ailments, and probably did.

With the exception of bleeding a patient, or setting broken bones, the Mexica concentrated on an (*4) approach to medicine, even maintaining extensive

_________________
2 The Aztecs were convinced that comets, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were some of the causes of illness, as well as offending various deities, particularly Tezcatliopoca.

3 Meyer, p. 79. Meyer does not reference his source for this statement. Wolfgang von Hagen, pp. 113-114, discusses the subject of skull trepanning as having been highly developed in the Inca society but found no references to the Aztecs developing such a practice.

4 As the Mexica tended to approach medicine from an herbal view, it is helpful to understand basic naturopathic terms and principals associated with herbs and the use of herbs in medicine. Listed here are the basic elements associated with a more modern naturopathic approach to healing with herbs.

ASTRINGENT - helps to close open wounds and stop fluid discharge.
ANTIEMETIC - used to control vomiting.
ANTISEPTIC - used to cleanse and ward off infection.
ANTISPASMODIC - used to relieve spasms.
DEMULCENT - inflammation relief.
DIURETIC - help with the flow of urine.
EMETIC - induce vomiting.
EMMENAGOGUE - help with menstruation flow.
EMOLLIENT - balm for inflamed skin.
FEBRIFUGE - fever control
LAXATIVE - constipation.
NERVINE - the nervous system treatment.
SEDATIVE - help with sleep and relaxation.
TONIC- revitalize and strengthen the whole body.

for growing some of the drugs that they used medicinally(*5).

Some fifteen hundred different plants, pastes, potions, and powders were catalogued soon after the conquest by a variety of historians. The Mexica were sophisticated enough to wrap flower petals around certain medicines to form a type of capsule, or "pill" for easy consumption(*6). Many of these medicinally used plants and herbs are still in use today and can be found in sidewalk drugstores(*7). Photographs of the disease are often posted along with the various jars, bags and other containers displayed, depicting the ailment the drug is intended to cure or provide some sort of relief.

____________________________________
5 Townsend, p. 170-171, relates the location of several tended gardens that may have produced some of the medicinal items used routinely by the Mexica. One was constructed by an engineer called Pinotel, commissioned by Moctezuma I, to build a garden near Huaxtepec. This garden was a horticultural experiment that successfully transplanted trees and herbs from the coastal regions to the Valley of Mexico. During the transplanting the gardeners would let blood over the planting area from their ears and fast for eight days. Gillmore, pp. 169-170 gives the spelling as Pinotl and relates the story in detail and assigns Pinotl as being a tribute collector from the Cuetlaxtlan region. Gillmore further relates in her notes, p. 236, that certain medicinal plants grown in this garden were cultivated after the conquest for a hospital in Mexico City run by Gregorio Lopez.

The lord of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, maintained an extensive medicinal garden of trees and therapeutic plants at Tetzcotzingo. Cortes wrote to King Charles V. of his observations of the extensive gardens at Ixtapalapan, as noted in his second letter to the King written in 1520. The great garden at Huaxtepec was discussed in his third letter.

7 The sidewalk drugstore I am most familiar with is located just outside the tourist zone in Nogalas Sonora and is just feet away from a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacy is full of tourists and what look like well off local residents, while the sidewalk vendor always seems to have a good crowd of what appear to be less economically stable local residents. The vendor had approximately 100 different large clear plastic bags and jars with various dried roots, powders, and herbs. I have also observed similar sidewalk drugstores throughout Asia.

The Mexica seemed not to encompass medicine into their long list of social taboo subjects, and approached the science with an open mind. The history of the Valley of Mexico teaches us that the area was a melting pot of cultures. For centuries various tribes from both North and South America settled and mingled in the fertile valley of central Mexico.

The various medicine practitioners must have sought each other out and traded recipes, stories and secrets. The discoveries made by each tribe were discussed, tried and experimented with. The good ones eventually would have been accepted into general daily practice. The Mexica even had a crude dental industry in practice. Common tooth decay among the Mexica was treated with crude fillings and drugs were used for anesthetic. Feather quills and cactus spines were used as simple instruments. Ground seeds and roots of the nettle plant was used for the treatment of festering gums(*8).

The general state of sanitary conditions in the streets, homes, and great ceremonial centers, located near the great city of Tenochtitlan, were exceptional and well regulated. Although I'm not sure this sanitation was done in the name of any health related regulation but rather a way to keep a large number of people gainfully employed and give the various deities a clean place to rest.

The city streets were well swept and kept clean(*9), drainage was well mastered, and most human waste was collected and disposed of or used in an agricultural manner(*10). The daily garbage generated by the large population of the city(*11) was treated in a like manner. Several reports by the conquering Spanish make reference to the cleanliness of the great city of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area.

____________________
8 Liquidamber styraciflua, or sweet gum (copal) was applied to a cheek in hot form for a common toothache. Vogel, pp. 378-9.

9 Meyer, p. 89, indicates that a crew of over a thousand people were daily assigned to the task of cleaning the city streets of the great Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.

10 Innes, p. 140, relates that canoes of human waste were taken up various creeks and sold for the manufacture of salt and skin curing. Urine was made into dye.

11 Buckets of human waste were routinely reported to have been seen sold in the marketplace for use as fertilizer. Human waste was barged with garbage out of the city. There must have been landfills and dumping areas. I have not been able to ascertain the locations of these Aztec "dumps" , however, a likely spot may have been on the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco near the Chimalhuacan area.

The common Mexica household maintained a good sense of personal hygiene and bathed often, once a day was common(*12). Aztec society before the arrival of the Spanish could be considered a healthy one. Medicine seemed to be confined strictly to the treatment of diseases, both physical and spiritual and not to physical (*13).

As soon as 1553, by royal order, the Spanish began to establish a system. This order called for the establishment of a hospital program to tend to the medical needs of ill Indians in the cities and countryside. By 1570 King Philip II had sent his personal doctor, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico who spent seven years in the study of the native plants of Mexico as well as a general study of Aztec medicine, and took his finding back to Spain(*14).

In 1580 Mexico City could boast four hospitals for Spaniards(*15), one hospital for the Indian population, and one hospital for Negroes and Mestizos(*16). Various groups of nuns and monasteries in Mexico began to open their doors and concentrate their energy on the health of Mexico.

____________________
12 One of the hardest traditions the early Spanish priests tried to break was the practice of adult men bathing with young girls and older women bathing with young males.

13 During an earthquake it was common practice to publicly sacrifice a hunchback, or other severely deformed, to stem the destruction. For this reason hunchbacks and other afflicted with physical deformities were well treated by society and kept close at hand.
14 He intended to publish his work but much of his work was destroyed. He did however collect information on over twelve hundred different plants used in medicine.

15 Apparently the hospitals were well funded. According to Lockhart, p. 216 & p. 284, one particular Mexico City hospital, Nuevstra Senora de la Concepcion, was supported by a large ranch it owned called Estancia of Mestepec in the western part of Ixtlahuaca. As of 1585 the estancia could boast possession of 10,400 sheep, as well as black slaves to run the ranch.

16 Meyer, p. 245. Meyer further relates that these hospitals were more like "rest homes" and provided only minimal treatments. The good Bishop Zumarraga established a hospital in Mexico City for the treatment of Venereal diseases with an asylum for the insane soon following. Even with the coming of European medicine the early Spanish colonists could only expect to live half as long as we do today.

In 1533 the Spanish crown was calling for anyone practicing medicine to have been examined by a qualified university to ascertain competence of the medical practitioner. In 1621 a department of surgery and anatomy was initiated at the University of Mexico. By 1791 there were barely two hundred and twenty one surgeons and barbers(*17) in Mexico to service the native population. Those practitioners were located mostly in the large cities with little contact with the rural areas(*18). Considering the large Indian population in the countryside, it is no wonder that ancient cures and medicines persisted into daily practice and can still be found to be in use in large sections of Mexico today.

Medicine in Mexico has never seemed to be a great burning political cause, or at least at other times than election periods. Even during the Mexican revolutionary period, 1910-1940, the population tended to place land reform and education above the health of the common people. The medical system in Mexico today still relies heavily upon ancient cures and the local midwives and medicine men. Fortunately for the poor many of these herbs, remedies and potions actually work.

This system of medicine provided a base for the formal medical community to build upon. Recent awareness of the importance of some of the old medicines has led to university level interest into the study and documentation of some of the ancient herbal remedies still in practice by the Indians of Mexico and other middle and South American Indian tribes. local medicine people are being contacted in rural areas of Mexico today and specimens tested for cancer relieving properties, tuberculosis, and a host of modern day ailments including AIDS research. One such program is funded by agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil(*19).

____________________
17 Surgeons, or the common official medical practitioner, was also a barber.

19 Current team researchers are from the University of Arizona, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, the Institute of Biological Resources in Argentina, the National University of Patagonia in Argentina, the Catholic University of Chile, the National University of Mexico and the American Cyanamid Company. This team is headed (as of this writing) by Barbara A. Timmermann professor of pharmacology/toxicology and arid lands studies, the University of Arizona. She has been studying and relating her finding of the subject of desert plants for 30 years. An article outlining this on-going research project with a photograph of Professor Timmermann is featured in THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR, p. 1 B, September 4, 1994. Professor Timmermann is known to lecture on the subject.

THE DIET OF THE MEXICA

The Mexica tended to eat quite well and adapted to their surrounding environment with ease(*20). Although there was limited year around fruit production in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were able to obtain necessary vitamins supplements of A and C from the various chilies they cultivated and used as condiments(*21). Although we tend to think of the Mexica as a strictly corn based society they cultivated another grain called "Huautli", or amaranth in large quantities(*22). Amaranth grain is high in protein and is today making a comeback in dietary popularity after centuries of lost general appeal. Cultivation of wild onions as well as tomatoes, called "xictomatl", and green tomatoes called "tomatl" (*23), were available as well as several squash varieties and mushrooms.


Cultivated root crops such as sweet potatoes, called "camotli"(*24), and the "jicama", a turnip like root, were served in a variety of meals. Meat was commercially raised and made available to the general population from the production of turkeys(*25), dogs(*26), mice, pigs(*27), wild sheep, and

____________________
20 In their early history, before the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica tribe was banished to a rocky and unwanted section of land in the lake area that was infested with rattlesnakes. The Mexica soon developed a taste for rattlesnake meat and thrived as a tribe.

21 Chili pods were mostly roasted and then ground into a powder. The Aztec would boil this powder with water to make a kind of sauce similar to modern Tabasco sauce. Chili is an Aztec word the Spanish called them "pimientas" or peppers.

22 Amaranth fields were primarily located south of the lake area while corn was grown practically everywhere.

23 The Aztec taught the Spanish several ways to prepare tomatoes including cooked or mixed with peppers. The Spanish soon carried the seeds of this plant to Europe where it gained instant popularity. At first no one would eat the fruit of this plant and grew them strictly as decorations. Fear of the fruit was hard to overcome and as late at 1820 Robert Johnson of Salem, New Jersey publicly announced that he would eat a tomato on the steps of the city courthouse. Shocked townsfolk watched in horror as Mr. Johnson ate not one but a small basketful of tomatoes.

24 These were probably Dioscorea villosa, wild yams. Also known as colic root or rheumatism root. Wild yams were used medicinally as a diaphoretic and as a expectorant.

25 The cock turkey species that grew a blue wattle was thought to be an emblem of the deity Tezcatlipoca, and the gobbling sound made by this bird was a representation of his voice. Aztecs would display their symbols as a sign of reverence.

ducks(*28). People living outside the confines of the cities could always rely on hunting for other wild meat sources such as venison or rabbit. Insects as well as fish and a protein rich algae(*29) could be harvested from the lake areas(*30) and various streams. Varieties of beans were cultivated commercially and was a staple source for needed protein to the diet of the Mexica.

Some fruit production of the guava, (Psidium guajava), family, avocados, (Persea gratissima), and apples were combined with the heavy cultivation of the Maguay plant to provide needed diet supplements. An indigenous melon called "ayotli" was also harvested. The broad leaves of the nopal cactus, "tunafruit" were also consumed. Coconuts, (Cocos nucifera), were plentiful in the coastal regions which were conquered and under the control

____________________________________
26 Nicholson's MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY , p. 37, related that these bred dogs were called "Xoloitzcuintli" and is not to be confused with the well known Chihuahua. This Xoloitzcuintli was a much larger dog and is today believed to be the first domesticated animal in all of the Americas. The breed was almost extinct until recently a dog fancier, Norman Pelham Wright, was able to obtain a few pure animals and as of the writing of her book at least seventy had been registered with the Mexican kennel club. Innes, p. 140, relates the Aztecs would often fatten and castrate these dogs for the dinner table. Fat from these dogs was used medicinally to clean wounds, a treatment that the Spaniards adopted.

27 Pigs raised were only semi-domesticated often caught as wild piglets. Cottie Burland, GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO , p.80, relates stories of these piglets being treated very well, even breast-feeding from the Aztec women.

28 It is likely that the poorer or common Mexica saw little of domesticated meat sources and that the majority of the meat went to the Nobel classes. With the exception of those living in the rural areas and able to hunt, the common Mexica saw little meat in the daily diet.

29 Innes, p. 140, relates that this algae was formed into cakes and tasted much like a kind of cheese.

30 The lake area provided a wealth of ready food items for the Mexica. Gillmore, p. 7, relates many creative ways in using the animals and food sources. One interesting collection method involved stretching out nets to catch low flying birds. Wild marsh grasses were collected rich with the eggs of waterflies. The eggs were sun dried and made into a paste.

of the Mexica empire and probably made their way in the form of tribute to Tenochtitlan.

The mainstay of the Mexica diet was the tortilla, made from corn. The tradition continues today with little change. The kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone.

The dough is formed into little round balls and then patted out by hand into thin round cakes or wrapped in a corn husk, the tamale, to then fill and eat.

Ritual (*31) can not be ignored, there are just too many references to it's widespread use. Reports of human flesh for sale in the great marketplace and numerous reports in the various codices associated with the Mexica, indicate the serving of human flesh for consumption in conjunction with festivals.

The flesh(*32) of the sacrificed victims was cooked with corn in a broth, the stew was called "tlacatlaolli"(*33).

____________________
31 The word cannibalism is Spanish in origin referring to the Carib Indians. Cannibalism was not limited to the New World and has been practiced by many societies for many different reasons. While in the New World it was primarily used to join with the victim or as a food source. In areas such as Tibet and Micronesia, the dead were honored by eating the corpse.

32 Cannibalism was well established with the ancient Chichimecs who were known to kill their fellows for the only purpose of eating. Diaz reports that in Mexica society the unwanted parts of the sacrificial victims would be sold in the marketplace as protein. A common cooking method was to stew human flesh with corn and serve the dish as "tlacatlaolli" , loosely meaning "human stew" .

After a sacrifice the captor was often given the corpse of the person he took in battle and provided a feast for his friends and relatives but did not eat the flesh of the victim as he considered the dead victim as "his beloved son" . Others at the party ate with no such feelings. The captor viewed the victim as his mirrored self.

33 According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213, human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this reason.

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in earthen jars being passed among Indians. An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano can be viewed on-line.

A favorite of the Mexica was the cacao bean(*34) which was roasted and ground, sometimes with parched corn, and added with water and beaten with a special stick to produce a frothy state. Cacao is also a source of fat(*35). This caffeine laden drink could then be flavored with honey or a wild vanilla(*36) extract to be consumed for either pleasure or as prescribed medicine.

Pulque(*37), a fermented alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant, is known to contain a generous portion of the helpful vitamin C and was also a favorite beverage, although drunkenness was punishable by death it did not seen to dampen the use of the drink and extensive private and public consumption was commonplace.

Maize was roasted to produce a form of popcorn(*38) and shelled peanuts were eaten by the population as well, and were probably enjoyed as a sort of "fun food" as snacks then, as much as they are consumed and in popular use today. Chewing gum was produced by the bitumen plant and used to clean the of the Mexica(*39).

____________________
34 The cocoa bean was cultivated mostly in the coastal regions of the Tabasco and Veracruz regions as well as the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala. The cacao bean was a staple of tribute sent to Tenochtitlan as well as frequently used as a form of currency. The modern name cocoa is from the Mexica "chocolatl" . The unsweetened drink made from these beans was called "cacaoquahitl" and was made by simply boiling the dried beans in water. A second and tastier drink was called "chocolatl" and was thickened with vanilla, honey, and other spices.

..The following letter was sent to me through a discussion group I belong to and further details the subject of chocolate. FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE FOOD SECTION IN THE AZTEC LINK LIST. tom

. Actually, the Mexica called the drink by many names, depending on what recipe they were talking about, as chocolate could be (and was) served with all sorts of flavorings, including flowers, honey, ground chile, and many more ingredients. "Chocolatl" is not, though, a Nahuatl word. The more widely used name for cacao-based drinks among the Mexica was "cacauatl", which means "cacao water". The origin for our word "chocolate" appears to be a combination of Mayan and Nahuatl, as the Maya called their drink (which they preferred to drink hot, as opposed to the Mexica who apparently used it as a refreshment) "chocol ha", which literally means "hot water" in Yucatec. Since the Spaniards probably first came across the drink in the Maya area, it is probable that they picked the name "chocol ha" there, later changing the Mayan word for water ("ha") for the Nahuatl one ("atl"), thus forming the word "chocol atl" which was later changed to "chocolate" (there are plenty of examples in which Nahuatl words ending in "tl" were changed to a "te" ending by the Spaniards, who seem to have had a hard time with the pronunciation of Nahuatl words, to wit: tomate (originally "tomatl"), aguacate (originally, "ahuacatl"), cuate (originally "coatl"), metate ("¿metatl?"), etc.). As for the name of the fruit and its precious seeds ("cacao", from where the English word "cocoa" is derived), it probably is of Mixe-Zoquean origin, according to several linguists who have studied it. Its adoption in Mayan languages (in which it is written phonetically as ka-ka-w on vases and codices) is probably one of many things inherited by the Pre-Classic Maya from the Olmec.

I would unhesitatingly direct anybody interested in this subject to Sophie and Michael Coe's 'The True History of Chocolate" (Thames & Hudson, 1996).

Jorge Perez de Lara
Mexico


35 Yucatecs are known to have extracted a grease which was formed into a type of butter.

36 Vanilla beans, V. planifolia, derive from a wild orchid that grows wild in the lowlands of Eastern Mexico. The beans are harvested from a long thin pod that takes a year to grow. Of interest, the Mexican orchid is the only known orchid to be pollinated naturally, by bees, other world wide varieties must be pollinated by hand.

37 Pulque is actually a Spanish word as the Aztec made a form of wine called "Octli" , from this plant. Pulque may more resemble a form of what we may recognize as a type of beer.

38 Popcorn was called "momochitl" and was worn as a garland as well as other decorative uses.

39 Townsend, p. 172, related that snapping gum in public was considered rude or offensive.


AZTEC MEDICINE

The treatment of any illness could be approached from quite a few different angles including, physical treatment, drugs, or a spiritual cure. The herb knowledge was extensive and effective. The spiritual, or magical cures, were just as important and deserve equal study and consideration as they apply to general medical treatment.

The Aztec had a love-hate relationship with their deities and saw themselves as mere pawns in the hands of the gods. An illness could be seen as retribution for not strictly following a rather extensive set of daily homage routines. Sickness may also be inflicted for no other reason than the amusement of a particular deity.

Another form of divine intervention in the health of the Aztec was pre-ordained illness. The Aztec had a well established birth sign structure, much like modern astrology. Babies born during certain days were expected to develop into sickly children and die early of disease. Conversely babies born on other days could expect favor from the gods and live happy, disease free lives. Should one of these favored people develop illness, he or she surely must have forgotten to properly pay homage to the gods.

In a general sense, Aztec medical science was on an even par with contemporary medical science of the day in Europe. Often times the Aztecs, or more specifically the Mexica, were far superior in the identification and treatment of the various ailments that affected them. Like their medical counterparts in Europe(*1),

____________________
1 Europe, in some ways, was behind the New world in the progression of medicine. As late as 1530 such theories as the "Doctrine of Signatures" was being led by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus. This theory stated that plants looked like the disease they were intended to cure. For example a walnut looked like a brain, therefore, it must be good for the cure of brain ailments. Ody, p. 19. Paracelsus, real name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, ordered his followers in 1524 to burn books written by advocates of herb medicine, Kruger, p.157.

the Aztec practitioners tended to concentrate on treating the symptom and not the disease or cause of the illness(*2).

Dr. Michael Meyer relates that the Aztecs were even performing "brain operations" (*3). In general, the Mexica could be considered to have been a very healthy race of people with preventive health measures and in possession of a good sense of public sanitation as a part of their daily lives.

The mental health of the Aztec was certainly in need of improvement. Considering the extent of anxiety in the daily lives of the common individual, it is no wonder that so many of their drugs were prescribed for various stomach ailments. As a regular antacid user myself, I speak from experience when I say that anxiety affects your digestive track, and I don't even have to worry about giant rocks falling on my head or becoming claw-handed as a result of my birth sign.

The daily lives of the Aztec were so regulated and controlled that it would have been difficult to maintain any type of mental health that we would associate with. This breakdown of balance between the mind and the body could manifest itself in a number of physical ailments, and probably did.

With the exception of bleeding a patient, or setting broken bones, the Mexica concentrated on an (*4) approach to medicine, even maintaining extensive

_________________
2 The Aztecs were convinced that comets, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were some of the causes of illness, as well as offending various deities, particularly Tezcatliopoca.

3 Meyer, p. 79. Meyer does not reference his source for this statement. Wolfgang von Hagen, pp. 113-114, discusses the subject of skull trepanning as having been highly developed in the Inca society but found no references to the Aztecs developing such a practice.

4 As the Mexica tended to approach medicine from an herbal view, it is helpful to understand basic naturopathic terms and principals associated with herbs and the use of herbs in medicine. Listed here are the basic elements associated with a more modern naturopathic approach to healing with herbs.

ASTRINGENT - helps to close open wounds and stop fluid discharge.
ANTIEMETIC - used to control vomiting.
ANTISEPTIC - used to cleanse and ward off infection.
ANTISPASMODIC - used to relieve spasms.
DEMULCENT - inflammation relief.
DIURETIC - help with the flow of urine.
EMETIC - induce vomiting.
EMMENAGOGUE - help with menstruation flow.
EMOLLIENT - balm for inflamed skin.
FEBRIFUGE - fever control
LAXATIVE - constipation.
NERVINE - the nervous system treatment.
SEDATIVE - help with sleep and relaxation.
TONIC- revitalize and strengthen the whole body.

for growing some of the drugs that they used medicinally(*5).

Some fifteen hundred different plants, pastes, potions, and powders were catalogued soon after the conquest by a variety of historians. The Mexica were sophisticated enough to wrap flower petals around certain medicines to form a type of capsule, or "pill" for easy consumption(*6). Many of these medicinally used plants and herbs are still in use today and can be found in sidewalk drugstores(*7). Photographs of the disease are often posted along with the various jars, bags and other containers displayed, depicting the ailment the drug is intended to cure or provide some sort of relief.

____________________________________
5 Townsend, p. 170-171, relates the location of several tended gardens that may have produced some of the medicinal items used routinely by the Mexica. One was constructed by an engineer called Pinotel, commissioned by Moctezuma I, to build a garden near Huaxtepec. This garden was a horticultural experiment that successfully transplanted trees and herbs from the coastal regions to the Valley of Mexico. During the transplanting the gardeners would let blood over the planting area from their ears and fast for eight days. Gillmore, pp. 169-170 gives the spelling as Pinotl and relates the story in detail and assigns Pinotl as being a tribute collector from the Cuetlaxtlan region. Gillmore further relates in her notes, p. 236, that certain medicinal plants grown in this garden were cultivated after the conquest for a hospital in Mexico City run by Gregorio Lopez.

The lord of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, maintained an extensive medicinal garden of trees and therapeutic plants at Tetzcotzingo. Cortes wrote to King Charles V. of his observations of the extensive gardens at Ixtapalapan, as noted in his second letter to the King written in 1520. The great garden at Huaxtepec was discussed in his third letter.

7 The sidewalk drugstore I am most familiar with is located just outside the tourist zone in Nogalas Sonora and is just feet away from a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacy is full of tourists and what look like well off local residents, while the sidewalk vendor always seems to have a good crowd of what appear to be less economically stable local residents. The vendor had approximately 100 different large clear plastic bags and jars with various dried roots, powders, and herbs. I have also observed similar sidewalk drugstores throughout Asia.

The Mexica seemed not to encompass medicine into their long list of social taboo subjects, and approached the science with an open mind. The history of the Valley of Mexico teaches us that the area was a melting pot of cultures. For centuries various tribes from both North and South America settled and mingled in the fertile valley of central Mexico.

The various medicine practitioners must have sought each other out and traded recipes, stories and secrets. The discoveries made by each tribe were discussed, tried and experimented with. The good ones eventually would have been accepted into general daily practice. The Mexica even had a crude dental industry in practice. Common tooth decay among the Mexica was treated with crude fillings and drugs were used for anesthetic. Feather quills and cactus spines were used as simple instruments. Ground seeds and roots of the nettle plant was used for the treatment of festering gums(*8).

The general state of sanitary conditions in the streets, homes, and great ceremonial centers, located near the great city of Tenochtitlan, were exceptional and well regulated. Although I'm not sure this sanitation was done in the name of any health related regulation but rather a way to keep a large number of people gainfully employed and give the various deities a clean place to rest.

The city streets were well swept and kept clean(*9), drainage was well mastered, and most human waste was collected and disposed of or used in an agricultural manner(*10). The daily garbage generated by the large population of the city(*11) was treated in a like manner. Several reports by the conquering Spanish make reference to the cleanliness of the great city of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area.

____________________
8 Liquidamber styraciflua, or sweet gum (copal) was applied to a cheek in hot form for a common toothache. Vogel, pp. 378-9.

9 Meyer, p. 89, indicates that a crew of over a thousand people were daily assigned to the task of cleaning the city streets of the great Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.

10 Innes, p. 140, relates that canoes of human waste were taken up various creeks and sold for the manufacture of salt and skin curing. Urine was made into dye.

11 Buckets of human waste were routinely reported to have been seen sold in the marketplace for use as fertilizer. Human waste was barged with garbage out of the city. There must have been landfills and dumping areas. I have not been able to ascertain the locations of these Aztec "dumps" , however, a likely spot may have been on the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco near the Chimalhuacan area.

The common Mexica household maintained a good sense of personal hygiene and bathed often, once a day was common(*12). Aztec society before the arrival of the Spanish could be considered a healthy one. Medicine seemed to be confined strictly to the treatment of diseases, both physical and spiritual and not to physical (*13).

As soon as 1553, by royal order, the Spanish began to establish a system. This order called for the establishment of a hospital program to tend to the medical needs of ill Indians in the cities and countryside. By 1570 King Philip II had sent his personal doctor, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico who spent seven years in the study of the native plants of Mexico as well as a general study of Aztec medicine, and took his finding back to Spain(*14).

In 1580 Mexico City could boast four hospitals for Spaniards(*15), one hospital for the Indian population, and one hospital for Negroes and Mestizos(*16). Various groups of nuns and monasteries in Mexico began to open their doors and concentrate their energy on the health of Mexico.

____________________
12 One of the hardest traditions the early Spanish priests tried to break was the practice of adult men bathing with young girls and older women bathing with young males.

13 During an earthquake it was common practice to publicly sacrifice a hunchback, or other severely deformed, to stem the destruction. For this reason hunchbacks and other afflicted with physical deformities were well treated by society and kept close at hand.
14 He intended to publish his work but much of his work was destroyed. He did however collect information on over twelve hundred different plants used in medicine.

15 Apparently the hospitals were well funded. According to Lockhart, p. 216 & p. 284, one particular Mexico City hospital, Nuevstra Senora de la Concepcion, was supported by a large ranch it owned called Estancia of Mestepec in the western part of Ixtlahuaca. As of 1585 the estancia could boast possession of 10,400 sheep, as well as black slaves to run the ranch.

16 Meyer, p. 245. Meyer further relates that these hospitals were more like "rest homes" and provided only minimal treatments. The good Bishop Zumarraga established a hospital in Mexico City for the treatment of Venereal diseases with an asylum for the insane soon following. Even with the coming of European medicine the early Spanish colonists could only expect to live half as long as we do today.

In 1533 the Spanish crown was calling for anyone practicing medicine to have been examined by a qualified university to ascertain competence of the medical practitioner. In 1621 a department of surgery and anatomy was initiated at the University of Mexico. By 1791 there were barely two hundred and twenty one surgeons and barbers(*17) in Mexico to service the native population. Those practitioners were located mostly in the large cities with little contact with the rural areas(*18). Considering the large Indian population in the countryside, it is no wonder that ancient cures and medicines persisted into daily practice and can still be found to be in use in large sections of Mexico today.

Medicine in Mexico has never seemed to be a great burning political cause, or at least at other times than election periods. Even during the Mexican revolutionary period, 1910-1940, the population tended to place land reform and education above the health of the common people. The medical system in Mexico today still relies heavily upon ancient cures and the local midwives and medicine men. Fortunately for the poor many of these herbs, remedies and potions actually work.

This system of medicine provided a base for the formal medical community to build upon. Recent awareness of the importance of some of the old medicines has led to university level interest into the study and documentation of some of the ancient herbal remedies still in practice by the Indians of Mexico and other middle and South American Indian tribes. local medicine people are being contacted in rural areas of Mexico today and specimens tested for cancer relieving properties, tuberculosis, and a host of modern day ailments including AIDS research. One such program is funded by agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil(*19).

____________________
17 Surgeons, or the common official medical practitioner, was also a barber.

19 Current team researchers are from the University of Arizona, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, the Institute of Biological Resources in Argentina, the National University of Patagonia in Argentina, the Catholic University of Chile, the National University of Mexico and the American Cyanamid Company. This team is headed (as of this writing) by Barbara A. Timmermann professor of pharmacology/toxicology and arid lands studies, the University of Arizona. She has been studying and relating her finding of the subject of desert plants for 30 years. An article outlining this on-going research project with a photograph of Professor Timmermann is featured in THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR, p. 1 B, September 4, 1994. Professor Timmermann is known to lecture on the subject.

THE DIET OF THE MEXICA

The Mexica tended to eat quite well and adapted to their surrounding environment with ease(*20). Although there was limited year around fruit production in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were able to obtain necessary vitamins supplements of A and C from the various chilies they cultivated and used as condiments(*21). Although we tend to think of the Mexica as a strictly corn based society they cultivated another grain called "Huautli", or amaranth in large quantities(*22). Amaranth grain is high in protein and is today making a comeback in dietary popularity after centuries of lost general appeal. Cultivation of wild onions as well as tomatoes, called "xictomatl", and green tomatoes called "tomatl" (*23), were available as well as several squash varieties and mushrooms.


Cultivated root crops such as sweet potatoes, called "camotli"(*24), and the "jicama", a turnip like root, were served in a variety of meals. Meat was commercially raised and made available to the general population from the production of turkeys(*25), dogs(*26), mice, pigs(*27), wild sheep, and

____________________
20 In their early history, before the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica tribe was banished to a rocky and unwanted section of land in the lake area that was infested with rattlesnakes. The Mexica soon developed a taste for rattlesnake meat and thrived as a tribe.

21 Chili pods were mostly roasted and then ground into a powder. The Aztec would boil this powder with water to make a kind of sauce similar to modern Tabasco sauce. Chili is an Aztec word the Spanish called them "pimientas" or peppers.

22 Amaranth fields were primarily located south of the lake area while corn was grown practically everywhere.

23 The Aztec taught the Spanish several ways to prepare tomatoes including cooked or mixed with peppers. The Spanish soon carried the seeds of this plant to Europe where it gained instant popularity. At first no one would eat the fruit of this plant and grew them strictly as decorations. Fear of the fruit was hard to overcome and as late at 1820 Robert Johnson of Salem, New Jersey publicly announced that he would eat a tomato on the steps of the city courthouse. Shocked townsfolk watched in horror as Mr. Johnson ate not one but a small basketful of tomatoes.

24 These were probably Dioscorea villosa, wild yams. Also known as colic root or rheumatism root. Wild yams were used medicinally as a diaphoretic and as a expectorant.

25 The cock turkey species that grew a blue wattle was thought to be an emblem of the deity Tezcatlipoca, and the gobbling sound made by this bird was a representation of his voice. Aztecs would display their symbols as a sign of reverence.

ducks(*28). People living outside the confines of the cities could always rely on hunting for other wild meat sources such as venison or rabbit. Insects as well as fish and a protein rich algae(*29) could be harvested from the lake areas(*30) and various streams. Varieties of beans were cultivated commercially and was a staple source for needed protein to the diet of the Mexica.

Some fruit production of the guava, (Psidium guajava), family, avocados, (Persea gratissima), and apples were combined with the heavy cultivation of the Maguay plant to provide needed diet supplements. An indigenous melon called "ayotli" was also harvested. The broad leaves of the nopal cactus, "tunafruit" were also consumed. Coconuts, (Cocos nucifera), were plentiful in the coastal regions which were conquered and under the control

____________________________________
26 Nicholson's MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY , p. 37, related that these bred dogs were called "Xoloitzcuintli" and is not to be confused with the well known Chihuahua. This Xoloitzcuintli was a much larger dog and is today believed to be the first domesticated animal in all of the Americas. The breed was almost extinct until recently a dog fancier, Norman Pelham Wright, was able to obtain a few pure animals and as of the writing of her book at least seventy had been registered with the Mexican kennel club. Innes, p. 140, relates the Aztecs would often fatten and castrate these dogs for the dinner table. Fat from these dogs was used medicinally to clean wounds, a treatment that the Spaniards adopted.

27 Pigs raised were only semi-domesticated often caught as wild piglets. Cottie Burland, GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO , p.80, relates stories of these piglets being treated very well, even breast-feeding from the Aztec women.

28 It is likely that the poorer or common Mexica saw little of domesticated meat sources and that the majority of the meat went to the Nobel classes. With the exception of those living in the rural areas and able to hunt, the common Mexica saw little meat in the daily diet.

29 Innes, p. 140, relates that this algae was formed into cakes and tasted much like a kind of cheese.

30 The lake area provided a wealth of ready food items for the Mexica. Gillmore, p. 7, relates many creative ways in using the animals and food sources. One interesting collection method involved stretching out nets to catch low flying birds. Wild marsh grasses were collected rich with the eggs of waterflies. The eggs were sun dried and made into a paste.

of the Mexica empire and probably made their way in the form of tribute to Tenochtitlan.

The mainstay of the Mexica diet was the tortilla, made from corn. The tradition continues today with little change. The kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone.

The dough is formed into little round balls and then patted out by hand into thin round cakes or wrapped in a corn husk, the tamale, to then fill and eat.

Ritual (*31) can not be ignored, there are just too many references to it's widespread use. Reports of human flesh for sale in the great marketplace and numerous reports in the various codices associated with the Mexica, indicate the serving of human flesh for consumption in conjunction with festivals.

The flesh(*32) of the sacrificed victims was cooked with corn in a broth, the stew was called "tlacatlaolli"(*33).

____________________
31 The word cannibalism is Spanish in origin referring to the Carib Indians. Cannibalism was not limited to the New World and has been practiced by many societies for many different reasons. While in the New World it was primarily used to join with the victim or as a food source. In areas such as Tibet and Micronesia, the dead were honored by eating the corpse.

32 Cannibalism was well established with the ancient Chichimecs who were known to kill their fellows for the only purpose of eating. Diaz reports that in Mexica society the unwanted parts of the sacrificial victims would be sold in the marketplace as protein. A common cooking method was to stew human flesh with corn and serve the dish as "tlacatlaolli" , loosely meaning "human stew" .

After a sacrifice the captor was often given the corpse of the person he took in battle and provided a feast for his friends and relatives but did not eat the flesh of the victim as he considered the dead victim as "his beloved son" . Others at the party ate with no such feelings. The captor viewed the victim as his mirrored self.

33 According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213, human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this reason.

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in earthen jars being passed among Indians. An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano can be viewed on-line.

A favorite of the Mexica was the cacao bean(*34) which was roasted and ground, sometimes with parched corn, and added with water and beaten with a special stick to produce a frothy state. Cacao is also a source of fat(*35). This caffeine laden drink could then be flavored with honey or a wild vanilla(*36) extract to be consumed for either pleasure or as prescribed medicine.

Pulque(*37), a fermented alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant, is known to contain a generous portion of the helpful vitamin C and was also a favorite beverage, although drunkenness was punishable by death it did not seen to dampen the use of the drink and extensive private and public consumption was commonplace.

Maize was roasted to produce a form of popcorn(*38) and shelled peanuts were eaten by the population as well, and were probably enjoyed as a sort of "fun food" as snacks then, as much as they are consumed and in popular use today. Chewing gum was produced by the bitumen plant and used to clean the of the Mexica(*39).

____________________
34 The cocoa bean was cultivated mostly in the coastal regions of the Tabasco and Veracruz regions as well as the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala. The cacao bean was a staple of tribute sent to Tenochtitlan as well as frequently used as a form of currency. The modern name cocoa is from the Mexica "chocolatl" . The unsweetened drink made from these beans was called "cacaoquahitl" and was made by simply boiling the dried beans in water. A second and tastier drink was called "chocolatl" and was thickened with vanilla, honey, and other spices.

..The following letter was sent to me through a discussion group I belong to and further details the subject of chocolate. FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE FOOD SECTION IN THE AZTEC LINK LIST. tom

. Actually, the Mexica called the drink by many names, depending on what recipe they were talking about, as chocolate could be (and was) served with all sorts of flavorings, including flowers, honey, ground chile, and many more ingredients. "Chocolatl" is not, though, a Nahuatl word. The more widely used name for cacao-based drinks among the Mexica was "cacauatl", which means "cacao water". The origin for our word "chocolate" appears to be a combination of Mayan and Nahuatl, as the Maya called their drink (which they preferred to drink hot, as opposed to the Mexica who apparently used it as a refreshment) "chocol ha", which literally means "hot water" in Yucatec. Since the Spaniards probably first came across the drink in the Maya area, it is probable that they picked the name "chocol ha" there, later changing the Mayan word for water ("ha") for the Nahuatl one ("atl"), thus forming the word "chocol atl" which was later changed to "chocolate" (there are plenty of examples in which Nahuatl words ending in "tl" were changed to a "te" ending by the Spaniards, who seem to have had a hard time with the pronunciation of Nahuatl words, to wit: tomate (originally "tomatl"), aguacate (originally, "ahuacatl"), cuate (originally "coatl"), metate ("¿metatl?"), etc.). As for the name of the fruit and its precious seeds ("cacao", from where the English word "cocoa" is derived), it probably is of Mixe-Zoquean origin, according to several linguists who have studied it. Its adoption in Mayan languages (in which it is written phonetically as ka-ka-w on vases and codices) is probably one of many things inherited by the Pre-Classic Maya from the Olmec.

I would unhesitatingly direct anybody interested in this subject to Sophie and Michael Coe's 'The True History of Chocolate" (Thames & Hudson, 1996).

Jorge Perez de Lara
Mexico


35 Yucatecs are known to have extracted a grease which was formed into a type of butter.

36 Vanilla beans, V. planifolia, derive from a wild orchid that grows wild in the lowlands of Eastern Mexico. The beans are harvested from a long thin pod that takes a year to grow. Of interest, the Mexican orchid is the only known orchid to be pollinated naturally, by bees, other world wide varieties must be pollinated by hand.

37 Pulque is actually a Spanish word as the Aztec made a form of wine called "Octli" , from this plant. Pulque may more resemble a form of what we may recognize as a type of beer.

38 Popcorn was called "momochitl" and was worn as a garland as well as other decorative uses.

39 Townsend, p. 172, related that snapping gum in public was considered rude or offensive.


AZTEC MEDICINE

The treatment of any illness could be approached from quite a few different angles including, physical treatment, drugs, or a spiritual cure. The herb knowledge was extensive and effective. The spiritual, or magical cures, were just as important and deserve equal study and consideration as they apply to general medical treatment.

The Aztec had a love-hate relationship with their deities and saw themselves as mere pawns in the hands of the gods. An illness could be seen as retribution for not strictly following a rather extensive set of daily homage routines. Sickness may also be inflicted for no other reason than the amusement of a particular deity.

Another form of divine intervention in the health of the Aztec was pre-ordained illness. The Aztec had a well established birth sign structure, much like modern astrology. Babies born during certain days were expected to develop into sickly children and die early of disease. Conversely babies born on other days could expect favor from the gods and live happy, disease free lives. Should one of these favored people develop illness, he or she surely must have forgotten to properly pay homage to the gods.

In a general sense, Aztec medical science was on an even par with contemporary medical science of the day in Europe. Often times the Aztecs, or more specifically the Mexica, were far superior in the identification and treatment of the various ailments that affected them. Like their medical counterparts in Europe(*1),

____________________
1 Europe, in some ways, was behind the New world in the progression of medicine. As late as 1530 such theories as the "Doctrine of Signatures" was being led by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus. This theory stated that plants looked like the disease they were intended to cure. For example a walnut looked like a brain, therefore, it must be good for the cure of brain ailments. Ody, p. 19. Paracelsus, real name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, ordered his followers in 1524 to burn books written by advocates of herb medicine, Kruger, p.157.

the Aztec practitioners tended to concentrate on treating the symptom and not the disease or cause of the illness(*2).

Dr. Michael Meyer relates that the Aztecs were even performing "brain operations" (*3). In general, the Mexica could be considered to have been a very healthy race of people with preventive health measures and in possession of a good sense of public sanitation as a part of their daily lives.

The mental health of the Aztec was certainly in need of improvement. Considering the extent of anxiety in the daily lives of the common individual, it is no wonder that so many of their drugs were prescribed for various stomach ailments. As a regular antacid user myself, I speak from experience when I say that anxiety affects your digestive track, and I don't even have to worry about giant rocks falling on my head or becoming claw-handed as a result of my birth sign.

The daily lives of the Aztec were so regulated and controlled that it would have been difficult to maintain any type of mental health that we would associate with. This breakdown of balance between the mind and the body could manifest itself in a number of physical ailments, and probably did.

With the exception of bleeding a patient, or setting broken bones, the Mexica concentrated on an (*4) approach to medicine, even maintaining extensive

_________________
2 The Aztecs were convinced that comets, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were some of the causes of illness, as well as offending various deities, particularly Tezcatliopoca.

3 Meyer, p. 79. Meyer does not reference his source for this statement. Wolfgang von Hagen, pp. 113-114, discusses the subject of skull trepanning as having been highly developed in the Inca society but found no references to the Aztecs developing such a practice.

4 As the Mexica tended to approach medicine from an herbal view, it is helpful to understand basic naturopathic terms and principals associated with herbs and the use of herbs in medicine. Listed here are the basic elements associated with a more modern naturopathic approach to healing with herbs.

ASTRINGENT - helps to close open wounds and stop fluid discharge.
ANTIEMETIC - used to control vomiting.
ANTISEPTIC - used to cleanse and ward off infection.
ANTISPASMODIC - used to relieve spasms.
DEMULCENT - inflammation relief.
DIURETIC - help with the flow of urine.
EMETIC - induce vomiting.
EMMENAGOGUE - help with menstruation flow.
EMOLLIENT - balm for inflamed skin.
FEBRIFUGE - fever control
LAXATIVE - constipation.
NERVINE - the nervous system treatment.
SEDATIVE - help with sleep and relaxation.
TONIC- revitalize and strengthen the whole body.

for growing some of the drugs that they used medicinally(*5).

Some fifteen hundred different plants, pastes, potions, and powders were catalogued soon after the conquest by a variety of historians. The Mexica were sophisticated enough to wrap flower petals around certain medicines to form a type of capsule, or "pill" for easy consumption(*6). Many of these medicinally used plants and herbs are still in use today and can be found in sidewalk drugstores(*7). Photographs of the disease are often posted along with the various jars, bags and other containers displayed, depicting the ailment the drug is intended to cure or provide some sort of relief.

____________________________________
5 Townsend, p. 170-171, relates the location of several tended gardens that may have produced some of the medicinal items used routinely by the Mexica. One was constructed by an engineer called Pinotel, commissioned by Moctezuma I, to build a garden near Huaxtepec. This garden was a horticultural experiment that successfully transplanted trees and herbs from the coastal regions to the Valley of Mexico. During the transplanting the gardeners would let blood over the planting area from their ears and fast for eight days. Gillmore, pp. 169-170 gives the spelling as Pinotl and relates the story in detail and assigns Pinotl as being a tribute collector from the Cuetlaxtlan region. Gillmore further relates in her notes, p. 236, that certain medicinal plants grown in this garden were cultivated after the conquest for a hospital in Mexico City run by Gregorio Lopez.

The lord of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, maintained an extensive medicinal garden of trees and therapeutic plants at Tetzcotzingo. Cortes wrote to King Charles V. of his observations of the extensive gardens at Ixtapalapan, as noted in his second letter to the King written in 1520. The great garden at Huaxtepec was discussed in his third letter.

7 The sidewalk drugstore I am most familiar with is located just outside the tourist zone in Nogalas Sonora and is just feet away from a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacy is full of tourists and what look like well off local residents, while the sidewalk vendor always seems to have a good crowd of what appear to be less economically stable local residents. The vendor had approximately 100 different large clear plastic bags and jars with various dried roots, powders, and herbs. I have also observed similar sidewalk drugstores throughout Asia.

The Mexica seemed not to encompass medicine into their long list of social taboo subjects, and approached the science with an open mind. The history of the Valley of Mexico teaches us that the area was a melting pot of cultures. For centuries various tribes from both North and South America settled and mingled in the fertile valley of central Mexico.

The various medicine practitioners must have sought each other out and traded recipes, stories and secrets. The discoveries made by each tribe were discussed, tried and experimented with. The good ones eventually would have been accepted into general daily practice. The Mexica even had a crude dental industry in practice. Common tooth decay among the Mexica was treated with crude fillings and drugs were used for anesthetic. Feather quills and cactus spines were used as simple instruments. Ground seeds and roots of the nettle plant was used for the treatment of festering gums(*8).

The general state of sanitary conditions in the streets, homes, and great ceremonial centers, located near the great city of Tenochtitlan, were exceptional and well regulated. Although I'm not sure this sanitation was done in the name of any health related regulation but rather a way to keep a large number of people gainfully employed and give the various deities a clean place to rest.

The city streets were well swept and kept clean(*9), drainage was well mastered, and most human waste was collected and disposed of or used in an agricultural manner(*10). The daily garbage generated by the large population of the city(*11) was treated in a like manner. Several reports by the conquering Spanish make reference to the cleanliness of the great city of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area.

____________________
8 Liquidamber styraciflua, or sweet gum (copal) was applied to a cheek in hot form for a common toothache. Vogel, pp. 378-9.

9 Meyer, p. 89, indicates that a crew of over a thousand people were daily assigned to the task of cleaning the city streets of the great Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.

10 Innes, p. 140, relates that canoes of human waste were taken up various creeks and sold for the manufacture of salt and skin curing. Urine was made into dye.

11 Buckets of human waste were routinely reported to have been seen sold in the marketplace for use as fertilizer. Human waste was barged with garbage out of the city. There must have been landfills and dumping areas. I have not been able to ascertain the locations of these Aztec "dumps" , however, a likely spot may have been on the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco near the Chimalhuacan area.

The common Mexica household maintained a good sense of personal hygiene and bathed often, once a day was common(*12). Aztec society before the arrival of the Spanish could be considered a healthy one. Medicine seemed to be confined strictly to the treatment of diseases, both physical and spiritual and not to physical (*13).

As soon as 1553, by royal order, the Spanish began to establish a system. This order called for the establishment of a hospital program to tend to the medical needs of ill Indians in the cities and countryside. By 1570 King Philip II had sent his personal doctor, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico who spent seven years in the study of the native plants of Mexico as well as a general study of Aztec medicine, and took his finding back to Spain(*14).

In 1580 Mexico City could boast four hospitals for Spaniards(*15), one hospital for the Indian population, and one hospital for Negroes and Mestizos(*16). Various groups of nuns and monasteries in Mexico began to open their doors and concentrate their energy on the health of Mexico.

____________________
12 One of the hardest traditions the early Spanish priests tried to break was the practice of adult men bathing with young girls and older women bathing with young males.

13 During an earthquake it was common practice to publicly sacrifice a hunchback, or other severely deformed, to stem the destruction. For this reason hunchbacks and other afflicted with physical deformities were well treated by society and kept close at hand.
14 He intended to publish his work but much of his work was destroyed. He did however collect information on over twelve hundred different plants used in medicine.

15 Apparently the hospitals were well funded. According to Lockhart, p. 216 & p. 284, one particular Mexico City hospital, Nuevstra Senora de la Concepcion, was supported by a large ranch it owned called Estancia of Mestepec in the western part of Ixtlahuaca. As of 1585 the estancia could boast possession of 10,400 sheep, as well as black slaves to run the ranch.

16 Meyer, p. 245. Meyer further relates that these hospitals were more like "rest homes" and provided only minimal treatments. The good Bishop Zumarraga established a hospital in Mexico City for the treatment of Venereal diseases with an asylum for the insane soon following. Even with the coming of European medicine the early Spanish colonists could only expect to live half as long as we do today.

In 1533 the Spanish crown was calling for anyone practicing medicine to have been examined by a qualified university to ascertain competence of the medical practitioner. In 1621 a department of surgery and anatomy was initiated at the University of Mexico. By 1791 there were barely two hundred and twenty one surgeons and barbers(*17) in Mexico to service the native population. Those practitioners were located mostly in the large cities with little contact with the rural areas(*18). Considering the large Indian population in the countryside, it is no wonder that ancient cures and medicines persisted into daily practice and can still be found to be in use in large sections of Mexico today.

Medicine in Mexico has never seemed to be a great burning political cause, or at least at other times than election periods. Even during the Mexican revolutionary period, 1910-1940, the population tended to place land reform and education above the health of the common people. The medical system in Mexico today still relies heavily upon ancient cures and the local midwives and medicine men. Fortunately for the poor many of these herbs, remedies and potions actually work.

This system of medicine provided a base for the formal medical community to build upon. Recent awareness of the importance of some of the old medicines has led to university level interest into the study and documentation of some of the ancient herbal remedies still in practice by the Indians of Mexico and other middle and South American Indian tribes. local medicine people are being contacted in rural areas of Mexico today and specimens tested for cancer relieving properties, tuberculosis, and a host of modern day ailments including AIDS research. One such program is funded by agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil(*19).

____________________
17 Surgeons, or the common official medical practitioner, was also a barber.

19 Current team researchers are from the University of Arizona, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, the Institute of Biological Resources in Argentina, the National University of Patagonia in Argentina, the Catholic University of Chile, the National University of Mexico and the American Cyanamid Company. This team is headed (as of this writing) by Barbara A. Timmermann professor of pharmacology/toxicology and arid lands studies, the University of Arizona. She has been studying and relating her finding of the subject of desert plants for 30 years. An article outlining this on-going research project with a photograph of Professor Timmermann is featured in THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR, p. 1 B, September 4, 1994. Professor Timmermann is known to lecture on the subject.

THE DIET OF THE MEXICA

The Mexica tended to eat quite well and adapted to their surrounding environment with ease(*20). Although there was limited year around fruit production in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were able to obtain necessary vitamins supplements of A and C from the various chilies they cultivated and used as condiments(*21). Although we tend to think of the Mexica as a strictly corn based society they cultivated another grain called "Huautli", or amaranth in large quantities(*22). Amaranth grain is high in protein and is today making a comeback in dietary popularity after centuries of lost general appeal. Cultivation of wild onions as well as tomatoes, called "xictomatl", and green tomatoes called "tomatl" (*23), were available as well as several squash varieties and mushrooms.


Cultivated root crops such as sweet potatoes, called "camotli"(*24), and the "jicama", a turnip like root, were served in a variety of meals. Meat was commercially raised and made available to the general population from the production of turkeys(*25), dogs(*26), mice, pigs(*27), wild sheep, and

____________________
20 In their early history, before the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica tribe was banished to a rocky and unwanted section of land in the lake area that was infested with rattlesnakes. The Mexica soon developed a taste for rattlesnake meat and thrived as a tribe.

21 Chili pods were mostly roasted and then ground into a powder. The Aztec would boil this powder with water to make a kind of sauce similar to modern Tabasco sauce. Chili is an Aztec word the Spanish called them "pimientas" or peppers.

22 Amaranth fields were primarily located south of the lake area while corn was grown practically everywhere.

23 The Aztec taught the Spanish several ways to prepare tomatoes including cooked or mixed with peppers. The Spanish soon carried the seeds of this plant to Europe where it gained instant popularity. At first no one would eat the fruit of this plant and grew them strictly as decorations. Fear of the fruit was hard to overcome and as late at 1820 Robert Johnson of Salem, New Jersey publicly announced that he would eat a tomato on the steps of the city courthouse. Shocked townsfolk watched in horror as Mr. Johnson ate not one but a small basketful of tomatoes.

24 These were probably Dioscorea villosa, wild yams. Also known as colic root or rheumatism root. Wild yams were used medicinally as a diaphoretic and as a expectorant.

25 The cock turkey species that grew a blue wattle was thought to be an emblem of the deity Tezcatlipoca, and the gobbling sound made by this bird was a representation of his voice. Aztecs would display their symbols as a sign of reverence.

ducks(*28). People living outside the confines of the cities could always rely on hunting for other wild meat sources such as venison or rabbit. Insects as well as fish and a protein rich algae(*29) could be harvested from the lake areas(*30) and various streams. Varieties of beans were cultivated commercially and was a staple source for needed protein to the diet of the Mexica.

Some fruit production of the guava, (Psidium guajava), family, avocados, (Persea gratissima), and apples were combined with the heavy cultivation of the Maguay plant to provide needed diet supplements. An indigenous melon called "ayotli" was also harvested. The broad leaves of the nopal cactus, "tunafruit" were also consumed. Coconuts, (Cocos nucifera), were plentiful in the coastal regions which were conquered and under the control

____________________________________
26 Nicholson's MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY , p. 37, related that these bred dogs were called "Xoloitzcuintli" and is not to be confused with the well known Chihuahua. This Xoloitzcuintli was a much larger dog and is today believed to be the first domesticated animal in all of the Americas. The breed was almost extinct until recently a dog fancier, Norman Pelham Wright, was able to obtain a few pure animals and as of the writing of her book at least seventy had been registered with the Mexican kennel club. Innes, p. 140, relates the Aztecs would often fatten and castrate these dogs for the dinner table. Fat from these dogs was used medicinally to clean wounds, a treatment that the Spaniards adopted.

27 Pigs raised were only semi-domesticated often caught as wild piglets. Cottie Burland, GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO , p.80, relates stories of these piglets being treated very well, even breast-feeding from the Aztec women.

28 It is likely that the poorer or common Mexica saw little of domesticated meat sources and that the majority of the meat went to the Nobel classes. With the exception of those living in the rural areas and able to hunt, the common Mexica saw little meat in the daily diet.

29 Innes, p. 140, relates that this algae was formed into cakes and tasted much like a kind of cheese.

30 The lake area provided a wealth of ready food items for the Mexica. Gillmore, p. 7, relates many creative ways in using the animals and food sources. One interesting collection method involved stretching out nets to catch low flying birds. Wild marsh grasses were collected rich with the eggs of waterflies. The eggs were sun dried and made into a paste.

of the Mexica empire and probably made their way in the form of tribute to Tenochtitlan.

The mainstay of the Mexica diet was the tortilla, made from corn. The tradition continues today with little change. The kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone.

The dough is formed into little round balls and then patted out by hand into thin round cakes or wrapped in a corn husk, the tamale, to then fill and eat.

Ritual (*31) can not be ignored, there are just too many references to it's widespread use. Reports of human flesh for sale in the great marketplace and numerous reports in the various codices associated with the Mexica, indicate the serving of human flesh for consumption in conjunction with festivals.

The flesh(*32) of the sacrificed victims was cooked with corn in a broth, the stew was called "tlacatlaolli"(*33).

____________________
31 The word cannibalism is Spanish in origin referring to the Carib Indians. Cannibalism was not limited to the New World and has been practiced by many societies for many different reasons. While in the New World it was primarily used to join with the victim or as a food source. In areas such as Tibet and Micronesia, the dead were honored by eating the corpse.

32 Cannibalism was well established with the ancient Chichimecs who were known to kill their fellows for the only purpose of eating. Diaz reports that in Mexica society the unwanted parts of the sacrificial victims would be sold in the marketplace as protein. A common cooking method was to stew human flesh with corn and serve the dish as "tlacatlaolli" , loosely meaning "human stew" .

After a sacrifice the captor was often given the corpse of the person he took in battle and provided a feast for his friends and relatives but did not eat the flesh of the victim as he considered the dead victim as "his beloved son" . Others at the party ate with no such feelings. The captor viewed the victim as his mirrored self.

33 According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213, human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this reason.

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in earthen jars being passed among Indians. An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano can be viewed on-line.

A favorite of the Mexica was the cacao bean(*34) which was roasted and ground, sometimes with parched corn, and added with water and beaten with a special stick to produce a frothy state. Cacao is also a source of fat(*35). This caffeine laden drink could then be flavored with honey or a wild vanilla(*36) extract to be consumed for either pleasure or as prescribed medicine.

Pulque(*37), a fermented alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant, is known to contain a generous portion of the helpful vitamin C and was also a favorite beverage, although drunkenness was punishable by death it did not seen to dampen the use of the drink and extensive private and public consumption was commonplace.

Maize was roasted to produce a form of popcorn(*38) and shelled peanuts were eaten by the population as well, and were probably enjoyed as a sort of "fun food" as snacks then, as much as they are consumed and in popular use today. Chewing gum was produced by the bitumen plant and used to clean the of the Mexica(*39).

____________________
34 The cocoa bean was cultivated mostly in the coastal regions of the Tabasco and Veracruz regions as well as the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala. The cacao bean was a staple of tribute sent to Tenochtitlan as well as frequently used as a form of currency. The modern name cocoa is from the Mexica "chocolatl" . The unsweetened drink made from these beans was called "cacaoquahitl" and was made by simply boiling the dried beans in water. A second and tastier drink was called "chocolatl" and was thickened with vanilla, honey, and other spices.

..The following letter was sent to me through a discussion group I belong to and further details the subject of chocolate. FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE FOOD SECTION IN THE AZTEC LINK LIST. tom

. Actually, the Mexica called the drink by many names, depending on what recipe they were talking about, as chocolate could be (and was) served with all sorts of flavorings, including flowers, honey, ground chile, and many more ingredients. "Chocolatl" is not, though, a Nahuatl word. The more widely used name for cacao-based drinks among the Mexica was "cacauatl", which means "cacao water". The origin for our word "chocolate" appears to be a combination of Mayan and Nahuatl, as the Maya called their drink (which they preferred to drink hot, as opposed to the Mexica who apparently used it as a refreshment) "chocol ha", which literally means "hot water" in Yucatec. Since the Spaniards probably first came across the drink in the Maya area, it is probable that they picked the name "chocol ha" there, later changing the Mayan word for water ("ha") for the Nahuatl one ("atl"), thus forming the word "chocol atl" which was later changed to "chocolate" (there are plenty of examples in which Nahuatl words ending in "tl" were changed to a "te" ending by the Spaniards, who seem to have had a hard time with the pronunciation of Nahuatl words, to wit: tomate (originally "tomatl"), aguacate (originally, "ahuacatl"), cuate (originally "coatl"), metate ("¿metatl?"), etc.). As for the name of the fruit and its precious seeds ("cacao", from where the English word "cocoa" is derived), it probably is of Mixe-Zoquean origin, according to several linguists who have studied it. Its adoption in Mayan languages (in which it is written phonetically as ka-ka-w on vases and codices) is probably one of many things inherited by the Pre-Classic Maya from the Olmec.

I would unhesitatingly direct anybody interested in this subject to Sophie and Michael Coe's 'The True History of Chocolate" (Thames & Hudson, 1996).

Jorge Perez de Lara
Mexico


35 Yucatecs are known to have extracted a grease which was formed into a type of butter.

36 Vanilla beans, V. planifolia, derive from a wild orchid that grows wild in the lowlands of Eastern Mexico. The beans are harvested from a long thin pod that takes a year to grow. Of interest, the Mexican orchid is the only known orchid to be pollinated naturally, by bees, other world wide varieties must be pollinated by hand.

37 Pulque is actually a Spanish word as the Aztec made a form of wine called "Octli" , from this plant. Pulque may more resemble a form of what we may recognize as a type of beer.

38 Popcorn was called "momochitl" and was worn as a garland as well as other decorative uses.

39 Townsend, p. 172, related that snapping gum in public was considered rude or offensive.


AZTEC MEDICINE

The treatment of any illness could be approached from quite a few different angles including, physical treatment, drugs, or a spiritual cure. The herb knowledge was extensive and effective. The spiritual, or magical cures, were just as important and deserve equal study and consideration as they apply to general medical treatment.

The Aztec had a love-hate relationship with their deities and saw themselves as mere pawns in the hands of the gods. An illness could be seen as retribution for not strictly following a rather extensive set of daily homage routines. Sickness may also be inflicted for no other reason than the amusement of a particular deity.

Another form of divine intervention in the health of the Aztec was pre-ordained illness. The Aztec had a well established birth sign structure, much like modern astrology. Babies born during certain days were expected to develop into sickly children and die early of disease. Conversely babies born on other days could expect favor from the gods and live happy, disease free lives. Should one of these favored people develop illness, he or she surely must have forgotten to properly pay homage to the gods.

In a general sense, Aztec medical science was on an even par with contemporary medical science of the day in Europe. Often times the Aztecs, or more specifically the Mexica, were far superior in the identification and treatment of the various ailments that affected them. Like their medical counterparts in Europe(*1),

____________________
1 Europe, in some ways, was behind the New world in the progression of medicine. As late as 1530 such theories as the "Doctrine of Signatures" was being led by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus. This theory stated that plants looked like the disease they were intended to cure. For example a walnut looked like a brain, therefore, it must be good for the cure of brain ailments. Ody, p. 19. Paracelsus, real name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, ordered his followers in 1524 to burn books written by advocates of herb medicine, Kruger, p.157.

the Aztec practitioners tended to concentrate on treating the symptom and not the disease or cause of the illness(*2).

Dr. Michael Meyer relates that the Aztecs were even performing "brain operations" (*3). In general, the Mexica could be considered to have been a very healthy race of people with preventive health measures and in possession of a good sense of public sanitation as a part of their daily lives.

The mental health of the Aztec was certainly in need of improvement. Considering the extent of anxiety in the daily lives of the common individual, it is no wonder that so many of their drugs were prescribed for various stomach ailments. As a regular antacid user myself, I speak from experience when I say that anxiety affects your digestive track, and I don't even have to worry about giant rocks falling on my head or becoming claw-handed as a result of my birth sign.

The daily lives of the Aztec were so regulated and controlled that it would have been difficult to maintain any type of mental health that we would associate with. This breakdown of balance between the mind and the body could manifest itself in a number of physical ailments, and probably did.

With the exception of bleeding a patient, or setting broken bones, the Mexica concentrated on an (*4) approach to medicine, even maintaining extensive

_________________
2 The Aztecs were convinced that comets, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were some of the causes of illness, as well as offending various deities, particularly Tezcatliopoca.

3 Meyer, p. 79. Meyer does not reference his source for this statement. Wolfgang von Hagen, pp. 113-114, discusses the subject of skull trepanning as having been highly developed in the Inca society but found no references to the Aztecs developing such a practice.

4 As the Mexica tended to approach medicine from an herbal view, it is helpful to understand basic naturopathic terms and principals associated with herbs and the use of herbs in medicine. Listed here are the basic elements associated with a more modern naturopathic approach to healing with herbs.

ASTRINGENT - helps to close open wounds and stop fluid discharge.
ANTIEMETIC - used to control vomiting.
ANTISEPTIC - used to cleanse and ward off infection.
ANTISPASMODIC - used to relieve spasms.
DEMULCENT - inflammation relief.
DIURETIC - help with the flow of urine.
EMETIC - induce vomiting.
EMMENAGOGUE - help with menstruation flow.
EMOLLIENT - balm for inflamed skin.
FEBRIFUGE - fever control
LAXATIVE - constipation.
NERVINE - the nervous system treatment.
SEDATIVE - help with sleep and relaxation.
TONIC- revitalize and strengthen the whole body.

for growing some of the drugs that they used medicinally(*5).

Some fifteen hundred different plants, pastes, potions, and powders were catalogued soon after the conquest by a variety of historians. The Mexica were sophisticated enough to wrap flower petals around certain medicines to form a type of capsule, or "pill" for easy consumption(*6). Many of these medicinally used plants and herbs are still in use today and can be found in sidewalk drugstores(*7). Photographs of the disease are often posted along with the various jars, bags and other containers displayed, depicting the ailment the drug is intended to cure or provide some sort of relief.

____________________________________
5 Townsend, p. 170-171, relates the location of several tended gardens that may have produced some of the medicinal items used routinely by the Mexica. One was constructed by an engineer called Pinotel, commissioned by Moctezuma I, to build a garden near Huaxtepec. This garden was a horticultural experiment that successfully transplanted trees and herbs from the coastal regions to the Valley of Mexico. During the transplanting the gardeners would let blood over the planting area from their ears and fast for eight days. Gillmore, pp. 169-170 gives the spelling as Pinotl and relates the story in detail and assigns Pinotl as being a tribute collector from the Cuetlaxtlan region. Gillmore further relates in her notes, p. 236, that certain medicinal plants grown in this garden were cultivated after the conquest for a hospital in Mexico City run by Gregorio Lopez.

The lord of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, maintained an extensive medicinal garden of trees and therapeutic plants at Tetzcotzingo. Cortes wrote to King Charles V. of his observations of the extensive gardens at Ixtapalapan, as noted in his second letter to the King written in 1520. The great garden at Huaxtepec was discussed in his third letter.

7 The sidewalk drugstore I am most familiar with is located just outside the tourist zone in Nogalas Sonora and is just feet away from a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacy is full of tourists and what look like well off local residents, while the sidewalk vendor always seems to have a good crowd of what appear to be less economically stable local residents. The vendor had approximately 100 different large clear plastic bags and jars with various dried roots, powders, and herbs. I have also observed similar sidewalk drugstores throughout Asia.

The Mexica seemed not to encompass medicine into their long list of social taboo subjects, and approached the science with an open mind. The history of the Valley of Mexico teaches us that the area was a melting pot of cultures. For centuries various tribes from both North and South America settled and mingled in the fertile valley of central Mexico.

The various medicine practitioners must have sought each other out and traded recipes, stories and secrets. The discoveries made by each tribe were discussed, tried and experimented with. The good ones eventually would have been accepted into general daily practice. The Mexica even had a crude dental industry in practice. Common tooth decay among the Mexica was treated with crude fillings and drugs were used for anesthetic. Feather quills and cactus spines were used as simple instruments. Ground seeds and roots of the nettle plant was used for the treatment of festering gums(*8).

The general state of sanitary conditions in the streets, homes, and great ceremonial centers, located near the great city of Tenochtitlan, were exceptional and well regulated. Although I'm not sure this sanitation was done in the name of any health related regulation but rather a way to keep a large number of people gainfully employed and give the various deities a clean place to rest.

The city streets were well swept and kept clean(*9), drainage was well mastered, and most human waste was collected and disposed of or used in an agricultural manner(*10). The daily garbage generated by the large population of the city(*11) was treated in a like manner. Several reports by the conquering Spanish make reference to the cleanliness of the great city of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area.

____________________
8 Liquidamber styraciflua, or sweet gum (copal) was applied to a cheek in hot form for a common toothache. Vogel, pp. 378-9.

9 Meyer, p. 89, indicates that a crew of over a thousand people were daily assigned to the task of cleaning the city streets of the great Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.

10 Innes, p. 140, relates that canoes of human waste were taken up various creeks and sold for the manufacture of salt and skin curing. Urine was made into dye.

11 Buckets of human waste were routinely reported to have been seen sold in the marketplace for use as fertilizer. Human waste was barged with garbage out of the city. There must have been landfills and dumping areas. I have not been able to ascertain the locations of these Aztec "dumps" , however, a likely spot may have been on the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco near the Chimalhuacan area.

The common Mexica household maintained a good sense of personal hygiene and bathed often, once a day was common(*12). Aztec society before the arrival of the Spanish could be considered a healthy one. Medicine seemed to be confined strictly to the treatment of diseases, both physical and spiritual and not to physical (*13).

As soon as 1553, by royal order, the Spanish began to establish a system. This order called for the establishment of a hospital program to tend to the medical needs of ill Indians in the cities and countryside. By 1570 King Philip II had sent his personal doctor, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico who spent seven years in the study of the native plants of Mexico as well as a general study of Aztec medicine, and took his finding back to Spain(*14).

In 1580 Mexico City could boast four hospitals for Spaniards(*15), one hospital for the Indian population, and one hospital for Negroes and Mestizos(*16). Various groups of nuns and monasteries in Mexico began to open their doors and concentrate their energy on the health of Mexico.

____________________
12 One of the hardest traditions the early Spanish priests tried to break was the practice of adult men bathing with young girls and older women bathing with young males.

13 During an earthquake it was common practice to publicly sacrifice a hunchback, or other severely deformed, to stem the destruction. For this reason hunchbacks and other afflicted with physical deformities were well treated by society and kept close at hand.
14 He intended to publish his work but much of his work was destroyed. He did however collect information on over twelve hundred different plants used in medicine.

15 Apparently the hospitals were well funded. According to Lockhart, p. 216 & p. 284, one particular Mexico City hospital, Nuevstra Senora de la Concepcion, was supported by a large ranch it owned called Estancia of Mestepec in the western part of Ixtlahuaca. As of 1585 the estancia could boast possession of 10,400 sheep, as well as black slaves to run the ranch.

16 Meyer, p. 245. Meyer further relates that these hospitals were more like "rest homes" and provided only minimal treatments. The good Bishop Zumarraga established a hospital in Mexico City for the treatment of Venereal diseases with an asylum for the insane soon following. Even with the coming of European medicine the early Spanish colonists could only expect to live half as long as we do today.

In 1533 the Spanish crown was calling for anyone practicing medicine to have been examined by a qualified university to ascertain competence of the medical practitioner. In 1621 a department of surgery and anatomy was initiated at the University of Mexico. By 1791 there were barely two hundred and twenty one surgeons and barbers(*17) in Mexico to service the native population. Those practitioners were located mostly in the large cities with little contact with the rural areas(*18). Considering the large Indian population in the countryside, it is no wonder that ancient cures and medicines persisted into daily practice and can still be found to be in use in large sections of Mexico today.

Medicine in Mexico has never seemed to be a great burning political cause, or at least at other times than election periods. Even during the Mexican revolutionary period, 1910-1940, the population tended to place land reform and education above the health of the common people. The medical system in Mexico today still relies heavily upon ancient cures and the local midwives and medicine men. Fortunately for the poor many of these herbs, remedies and potions actually work.

This system of medicine provided a base for the formal medical community to build upon. Recent awareness of the importance of some of the old medicines has led to university level interest into the study and documentation of some of the ancient herbal remedies still in practice by the Indians of Mexico and other middle and South American Indian tribes. local medicine people are being contacted in rural areas of Mexico today and specimens tested for cancer relieving properties, tuberculosis, and a host of modern day ailments including AIDS research. One such program is funded by agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil(*19).

____________________
17 Surgeons, or the common official medical practitioner, was also a barber.

19 Current team researchers are from the University of Arizona, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, the Institute of Biological Resources in Argentina, the National University of Patagonia in Argentina, the Catholic University of Chile, the National University of Mexico and the American Cyanamid Company. This team is headed (as of this writing) by Barbara A. Timmermann professor of pharmacology/toxicology and arid lands studies, the University of Arizona. She has been studying and relating her finding of the subject of desert plants for 30 years. An article outlining this on-going research project with a photograph of Professor Timmermann is featured in THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR, p. 1 B, September 4, 1994. Professor Timmermann is known to lecture on the subject.

THE DIET OF THE MEXICA

The Mexica tended to eat quite well and adapted to their surrounding environment with ease(*20). Although there was limited year around fruit production in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were able to obtain necessary vitamins supplements of A and C from the various chilies they cultivated and used as condiments(*21). Although we tend to think of the Mexica as a strictly corn based society they cultivated another grain called "Huautli", or amaranth in large quantities(*22). Amaranth grain is high in protein and is today making a comeback in dietary popularity after centuries of lost general appeal. Cultivation of wild onions as well as tomatoes, called "xictomatl", and green tomatoes called "tomatl" (*23), were available as well as several squash varieties and mushrooms.


Cultivated root crops such as sweet potatoes, called "camotli"(*24), and the "jicama", a turnip like root, were served in a variety of meals. Meat was commercially raised and made available to the general population from the production of turkeys(*25), dogs(*26), mice, pigs(*27), wild sheep, and

____________________
20 In their early history, before the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica tribe was banished to a rocky and unwanted section of land in the lake area that was infested with rattlesnakes. The Mexica soon developed a taste for rattlesnake meat and thrived as a tribe.

21 Chili pods were mostly roasted and then ground into a powder. The Aztec would boil this powder with water to make a kind of sauce similar to modern Tabasco sauce. Chili is an Aztec word the Spanish called them "pimientas" or peppers.

22 Amaranth fields were primarily located south of the lake area while corn was grown practically everywhere.

23 The Aztec taught the Spanish several ways to prepare tomatoes including cooked or mixed with peppers. The Spanish soon carried the seeds of this plant to Europe where it gained instant popularity. At first no one would eat the fruit of this plant and grew them strictly as decorations. Fear of the fruit was hard to overcome and as late at 1820 Robert Johnson of Salem, New Jersey publicly announced that he would eat a tomato on the steps of the city courthouse. Shocked townsfolk watched in horror as Mr. Johnson ate not one but a small basketful of tomatoes.

24 These were probably Dioscorea villosa, wild yams. Also known as colic root or rheumatism root. Wild yams were used medicinally as a diaphoretic and as a expectorant.

25 The cock turkey species that grew a blue wattle was thought to be an emblem of the deity Tezcatlipoca, and the gobbling sound made by this bird was a representation of his voice. Aztecs would display their symbols as a sign of reverence.

ducks(*28). People living outside the confines of the cities could always rely on hunting for other wild meat sources such as venison or rabbit. Insects as well as fish and a protein rich algae(*29) could be harvested from the lake areas(*30) and various streams. Varieties of beans were cultivated commercially and was a staple source for needed protein to the diet of the Mexica.

Some fruit production of the guava, (Psidium guajava), family, avocados, (Persea gratissima), and apples were combined with the heavy cultivation of the Maguay plant to provide needed diet supplements. An indigenous melon called "ayotli" was also harvested. The broad leaves of the nopal cactus, "tunafruit" were also consumed. Coconuts, (Cocos nucifera), were plentiful in the coastal regions which were conquered and under the control

____________________________________
26 Nicholson's MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY , p. 37, related that these bred dogs were called "Xoloitzcuintli" and is not to be confused with the well known Chihuahua. This Xoloitzcuintli was a much larger dog and is today believed to be the first domesticated animal in all of the Americas. The breed was almost extinct until recently a dog fancier, Norman Pelham Wright, was able to obtain a few pure animals and as of the writing of her book at least seventy had been registered with the Mexican kennel club. Innes, p. 140, relates the Aztecs would often fatten and castrate these dogs for the dinner table. Fat from these dogs was used medicinally to clean wounds, a treatment that the Spaniards adopted.

27 Pigs raised were only semi-domesticated often caught as wild piglets. Cottie Burland, GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO , p.80, relates stories of these piglets being treated very well, even breast-feeding from the Aztec women.

28 It is likely that the poorer or common Mexica saw little of domesticated meat sources and that the majority of the meat went to the Nobel classes. With the exception of those living in the rural areas and able to hunt, the common Mexica saw little meat in the daily diet.

29 Innes, p. 140, relates that this algae was formed into cakes and tasted much like a kind of cheese.

30 The lake area provided a wealth of ready food items for the Mexica. Gillmore, p. 7, relates many creative ways in using the animals and food sources. One interesting collection method involved stretching out nets to catch low flying birds. Wild marsh grasses were collected rich with the eggs of waterflies. The eggs were sun dried and made into a paste.

of the Mexica empire and probably made their way in the form of tribute to Tenochtitlan.

The mainstay of the Mexica diet was the tortilla, made from corn. The tradition continues today with little change. The kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone.

The dough is formed into little round balls and then patted out by hand into thin round cakes or wrapped in a corn husk, the tamale, to then fill and eat.

Ritual (*31) can not be ignored, there are just too many references to it's widespread use. Reports of human flesh for sale in the great marketplace and numerous reports in the various codices associated with the Mexica, indicate the serving of human flesh for consumption in conjunction with festivals.

The flesh(*32) of the sacrificed victims was cooked with corn in a broth, the stew was called "tlacatlaolli"(*33).

____________________
31 The word cannibalism is Spanish in origin referring to the Carib Indians. Cannibalism was not limited to the New World and has been practiced by many societies for many different reasons. While in the New World it was primarily used to join with the victim or as a food source. In areas such as Tibet and Micronesia, the dead were honored by eating the corpse.

32 Cannibalism was well established with the ancient Chichimecs who were known to kill their fellows for the only purpose of eating. Diaz reports that in Mexica society the unwanted parts of the sacrificial victims would be sold in the marketplace as protein. A common cooking method was to stew human flesh with corn and serve the dish as "tlacatlaolli" , loosely meaning "human stew" .

After a sacrifice the captor was often given the corpse of the person he took in battle and provided a feast for his friends and relatives but did not eat the flesh of the victim as he considered the dead victim as "his beloved son" . Others at the party ate with no such feelings. The captor viewed the victim as his mirrored self.

33 According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213, human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this reason.

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in earthen jars being passed among Indians. An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano can be viewed on-line.

A favorite of the Mexica was the cacao bean(*34) which was roasted and ground, sometimes with parched corn, and added with water and beaten with a special stick to produce a frothy state. Cacao is also a source of fat(*35). This caffeine laden drink could then be flavored with honey or a wild vanilla(*36) extract to be consumed for either pleasure or as prescribed medicine.

Pulque(*37), a fermented alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant, is known to contain a generous portion of the helpful vitamin C and was also a favorite beverage, although drunkenness was punishable by death it did not seen to dampen the use of the drink and extensive private and public consumption was commonplace.

Maize was roasted to produce a form of popcorn(*38) and shelled peanuts were eaten by the population as well, and were probably enjoyed as a sort of "fun food" as snacks then, as much as they are consumed and in popular use today. Chewing gum was produced by the bitumen plant and used to clean the of the Mexica(*39).

____________________
34 The cocoa bean was cultivated mostly in the coastal regions of the Tabasco and Veracruz regions as well as the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala. The cacao bean was a staple of tribute sent to Tenochtitlan as well as frequently used as a form of currency. The modern name cocoa is from the Mexica "chocolatl" . The unsweetened drink made from these beans was called "cacaoquahitl" and was made by simply boiling the dried beans in water. A second and tastier drink was called "chocolatl" and was thickened with vanilla, honey, and other spices.

..The following letter was sent to me through a discussion group I belong to and further details the subject of chocolate. FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE FOOD SECTION IN THE AZTEC LINK LIST. tom

. Actually, the Mexica called the drink by many names, depending on what recipe they were talking about, as chocolate could be (and was) served with all sorts of flavorings, including flowers, honey, ground chile, and many more ingredients. "Chocolatl" is not, though, a Nahuatl word. The more widely used name for cacao-based drinks among the Mexica was "cacauatl", which means "cacao water". The origin for our word "chocolate" appears to be a combination of Mayan and Nahuatl, as the Maya called their drink (which they preferred to drink hot, as opposed to the Mexica who apparently used it as a refreshment) "chocol ha", which literally means "hot water" in Yucatec. Since the Spaniards probably first came across the drink in the Maya area, it is probable that they picked the name "chocol ha" there, later changing the Mayan word for water ("ha") for the Nahuatl one ("atl"), thus forming the word "chocol atl" which was later changed to "chocolate" (there are plenty of examples in which Nahuatl words ending in "tl" were changed to a "te" ending by the Spaniards, who seem to have had a hard time with the pronunciation of Nahuatl words, to wit: tomate (originally "tomatl"), aguacate (originally, "ahuacatl"), cuate (originally "coatl"), metate ("¿metatl?"), etc.). As for the name of the fruit and its precious seeds ("cacao", from where the English word "cocoa" is derived), it probably is of Mixe-Zoquean origin, according to several linguists who have studied it. Its adoption in Mayan languages (in which it is written phonetically as ka-ka-w on vases and codices) is probably one of many things inherited by the Pre-Classic Maya from the Olmec.

I would unhesitatingly direct anybody interested in this subject to Sophie and Michael Coe's 'The True History of Chocolate" (Thames & Hudson, 1996).

Jorge Perez de Lara
Mexico


35 Yucatecs are known to have extracted a grease which was formed into a type of butter.

36 Vanilla beans, V. planifolia, derive from a wild orchid that grows wild in the lowlands of Eastern Mexico. The beans are harvested from a long thin pod that takes a year to grow. Of interest, the Mexican orchid is the only known orchid to be pollinated naturally, by bees, other world wide varieties must be pollinated by hand.

37 Pulque is actually a Spanish word as the Aztec made a form of wine called "Octli" , from this plant. Pulque may more resemble a form of what we may recognize as a type of beer.

38 Popcorn was called "momochitl" and was worn as a garland as well as other decorative uses.

39 Townsend, p. 172, related that snapping gum in public was considered rude or offensive.


AZTEC MEDICINE

The treatment of any illness could be approached from quite a few different angles including, physical treatment, drugs, or a spiritual cure. The herb knowledge was extensive and effective. The spiritual, or magical cures, were just as important and deserve equal study and consideration as they apply to general medical treatment.

The Aztec had a love-hate relationship with their deities and saw themselves as mere pawns in the hands of the gods. An illness could be seen as retribution for not strictly following a rather extensive set of daily homage routines. Sickness may also be inflicted for no other reason than the amusement of a particular deity.

Another form of divine intervention in the health of the Aztec was pre-ordained illness. The Aztec had a well established birth sign structure, much like modern astrology. Babies born during certain days were expected to develop into sickly children and die early of disease. Conversely babies born on other days could expect favor from the gods and live happy, disease free lives. Should one of these favored people develop illness, he or she surely must have forgotten to properly pay homage to the gods.

In a general sense, Aztec medical science was on an even par with contemporary medical science of the day in Europe. Often times the Aztecs, or more specifically the Mexica, were far superior in the identification and treatment of the various ailments that affected them. Like their medical counterparts in Europe(*1),

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1 Europe, in some ways, was behind the New world in the progression of medicine. As late as 1530 such theories as the "Doctrine of Signatures" was being led by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus. This theory stated that plants looked like the disease they were intended to cure. For example a walnut looked like a brain, therefore, it must be good for the cure of brain ailments. Ody, p. 19. Paracelsus, real name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, ordered his followers in 1524 to burn books written by advocates of herb medicine, Kruger, p.157.

the Aztec practitioners tended to concentrate on treating the symptom and not the disease or cause of the illness(*2).

Dr. Michael Meyer relates that the Aztecs were even performing "brain operations" (*3). In general, the Mexica could be considered to have been a very healthy race of people with preventive health measures and in possession of a good sense of public sanitation as a part of their daily lives.

The mental health of the Aztec was certainly in need of improvement. Considering the extent of anxiety in the daily lives of the common individual, it is no wonder that so many of their drugs were prescribed for various stomach ailments. As a regular antacid user myself, I speak from experience when I say that anxiety affects your digestive track, and I don't even have to worry about giant rocks falling on my head or becoming claw-handed as a result of my birth sign.

The daily lives of the Aztec were so regulated and controlled that it would have been difficult to maintain any type of mental health that we would associate with. This breakdown of balance between the mind and the body could manifest itself in a number of physical ailments, and probably did.

With the exception of bleeding a patient, or setting broken bones, the Mexica concentrated on an (*4) approach to medicine, even maintaining extensive

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2 The Aztecs were convinced that comets, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were some of the causes of illness, as well as offending various deities, particularly Tezcatliopoca.

3 Meyer, p. 79. Meyer does not reference his source for this statement. Wolfgang von Hagen, pp. 113-114, discusses the subject of skull trepanning as having been highly developed in the Inca society but found no references to the Aztecs developing such a practice.

4 As the Mexica tended to approach medicine from an herbal view, it is helpful to understand basic naturopathic terms and principals associated with herbs and the use of herbs in medicine. Listed here are the basic elements associated with a more modern naturopathic approach to healing with herbs.

ASTRINGENT - helps to close open wounds and stop fluid discharge.
ANTIEMETIC - used to control vomiting.
ANTISEPTIC - used to cleanse and ward off infection.
ANTISPASMODIC - used to relieve spasms.
DEMULCENT - inflammation relief.
DIURETIC - help with the flow of urine.
EMETIC - induce vomiting.
EMMENAGOGUE - help with menstruation flow.
EMOLLIENT - balm for inflamed skin.
FEBRIFUGE - fever control
LAXATIVE - constipation.
NERVINE - the nervous system treatment.
SEDATIVE - help with sleep and relaxation.
TONIC- revitalize and strengthen the whole body.

for growing some of the drugs that they used medicinally(*5).

Some fifteen hundred different plants, pastes, potions, and powders were catalogued soon after the conquest by a variety of historians. The Mexica were sophisticated enough to wrap flower petals around certain medicines to form a type of capsule, or "pill" for easy consumption(*6). Many of these medicinally used plants and herbs are still in use today and can be found in sidewalk drugstores(*7). Photographs of the disease are often posted along with the various jars, bags and other containers displayed, depicting the ailment the drug is intended to cure or provide some sort of relief.

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5 Townsend, p. 170-171, relates the location of several tended gardens that may have produced some of the medicinal items used routinely by the Mexica. One was constructed by an engineer called Pinotel, commissioned by Moctezuma I, to build a garden near Huaxtepec. This garden was a horticultural experiment that successfully transplanted trees and herbs from the coastal regions to the Valley of Mexico. During the transplanting the gardeners would let blood over the planting area from their ears and fast for eight days. Gillmore, pp. 169-170 gives the spelling as Pinotl and relates the story in detail and assigns Pinotl as being a tribute collector from the Cuetlaxtlan region. Gillmore further relates in her notes, p. 236, that certain medicinal plants grown in this garden were cultivated after the conquest for a hospital in Mexico City run by Gregorio Lopez.

The lord of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, maintained an extensive medicinal garden of trees and therapeutic plants at Tetzcotzingo. Cortes wrote to King Charles V. of his observations of the extensive gardens at Ixtapalapan, as noted in his second letter to the King written in 1520. The great garden at Huaxtepec was discussed in his third letter.

7 The sidewalk drugstore I am most familiar with is located just outside the tourist zone in Nogalas Sonora and is just feet away from a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacy is full of tourists and what look like well off local residents, while the sidewalk vendor always seems to have a good crowd of what appear to be less economically stable local residents. The vendor had approximately 100 different large clear plastic bags and jars with various dried roots, powders, and herbs. I have also observed similar sidewalk drugstores throughout Asia.

The Mexica seemed not to encompass medicine into their long list of social taboo subjects, and approached the science with an open mind. The history of the Valley of Mexico teaches us that the area was a melting pot of cultures. For centuries various tribes from both North and South America settled and mingled in the fertile valley of central Mexico.

The various medicine practitioners must have sought each other out and traded recipes, stories and secrets. The discoveries made by each tribe were discussed, tried and experimented with. The good ones eventually would have been accepted into general daily practice. The Mexica even had a crude dental industry in practice. Common tooth decay among the Mexica was treated with crude fillings and drugs were used for anesthetic. Feather quills and cactus spines were used as simple instruments. Ground seeds and roots of the nettle plant was used for the treatment of festering gums(*8).

The general state of sanitary conditions in the streets, homes, and great ceremonial centers, located near the great city of Tenochtitlan, were exceptional and well regulated. Although I'm not sure this sanitation was done in the name of any health related regulation but rather a way to keep a large number of people gainfully employed and give the various deities a clean place to rest.

The city streets were well swept and kept clean(*9), drainage was well mastered, and most human waste was collected and disposed of or used in an agricultural manner(*10). The daily garbage generated by the large population of the city(*11) was treated in a like manner. Several reports by the conquering Spanish make reference to the cleanliness of the great city of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area.

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8 Liquidamber styraciflua, or sweet gum (copal) was applied to a cheek in hot form for a common toothache. Vogel, pp. 378-9.

9 Meyer, p. 89, indicates that a crew of over a thousand people were daily assigned to the task of cleaning the city streets of the great Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.

10 Innes, p. 140, relates that canoes of human waste were taken up various creeks and sold for the manufacture of salt and skin curing. Urine was made into dye.

11 Buckets of human waste were routinely reported to have been seen sold in the marketplace for use as fertilizer. Human waste was barged with garbage out of the city. There must have been landfills and dumping areas. I have not been able to ascertain the locations of these Aztec "dumps" , however, a likely spot may have been on the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco near the Chimalhuacan area.

The common Mexica household maintained a good sense of personal hygiene and bathed often, once a day was common(*12). Aztec society before the arrival of the Spanish could be considered a healthy one. Medicine seemed to be confined strictly to the treatment of diseases, both physical and spiritual and not to physical (*13).

As soon as 1553, by royal order, the Spanish began to establish a system. This order called for the establishment of a hospital program to tend to the medical needs of ill Indians in the cities and countryside. By 1570 King Philip II had sent his personal doctor, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico who spent seven years in the study of the native plants of Mexico as well as a general study of Aztec medicine, and took his finding back to Spain(*14).

In 1580 Mexico City could boast four hospitals for Spaniards(*15), one hospital for the Indian population, and one hospital for Negroes and Mestizos(*16). Various groups of nuns and monasteries in Mexico began to open their doors and concentrate their energy on the health of Mexico.

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12 One of the hardest traditions the early Spanish priests tried to break was the practice of adult men bathing with young girls and older women bathing with young males.

13 During an earthquake it was common practice to publicly sacrifice a hunchback, or other severely deformed, to stem the destruction. For this reason hunchbacks and other afflicted with physical deformities were well treated by society and kept close at hand.
14 He intended to publish his work but much of his work was destroyed. He did however collect information on over twelve hundred different plants used in medicine.

15 Apparently the hospitals were well funded. According to Lockhart, p. 216 & p. 284, one particular Mexico City hospital, Nuevstra Senora de la Concepcion, was supported by a large ranch it owned called Estancia of Mestepec in the western part of Ixtlahuaca. As of 1585 the estancia could boast possession of 10,400 sheep, as well as black slaves to run the ranch.

16 Meyer, p. 245. Meyer further relates that these hospitals were more like "rest homes" and provided only minimal treatments. The good Bishop Zumarraga established a hospital in Mexico City for the treatment of Venereal diseases with an asylum for the insane soon following. Even with the coming of European medicine the early Spanish colonists could only expect to live half as long as we do today.

In 1533 the Spanish crown was calling for anyone practicing medicine to have been examined by a qualified university to ascertain competence of the medical practitioner. In 1621 a department of surgery and anatomy was initiated at the University of Mexico. By 1791 there were barely two hundred and twenty one surgeons and barbers(*17) in Mexico to service the native population. Those practitioners were located mostly in the large cities with little contact with the rural areas(*18). Considering the large Indian population in the countryside, it is no wonder that ancient cures and medicines persisted into daily practice and can still be found to be in use in large sections of Mexico today.

Medicine in Mexico has never seemed to be a great burning political cause, or at least at other times than election periods. Even during the Mexican revolutionary period, 1910-1940, the population tended to place land reform and education above the health of the common people. The medical system in Mexico today still relies heavily upon ancient cures and the local midwives and medicine men. Fortunately for the poor many of these herbs, remedies and potions actually work.

This system of medicine provided a base for the formal medical community to build upon. Recent awareness of the importance of some of the old medicines has led to university level interest into the study and documentation of some of the ancient herbal remedies still in practice by the Indians of Mexico and other middle and South American Indian tribes. local medicine people are being contacted in rural areas of Mexico today and specimens tested for cancer relieving properties, tuberculosis, and a host of modern day ailments including AIDS research. One such program is funded by agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil(*19).

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17 Surgeons, or the common official medical practitioner, was also a barber.

19 Current team researchers are from the University of Arizona, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, the Institute of Biological Resources in Argentina, the National University of Patagonia in Argentina, the Catholic University of Chile, the National University of Mexico and the American Cyanamid Company. This team is headed (as of this writing) by Barbara A. Timmermann professor of pharmacology/toxicology and arid lands studies, the University of Arizona. She has been studying and relating her finding of the subject of desert plants for 30 years. An article outlining this on-going research project with a photograph of Professor Timmermann is featured in THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR, p. 1 B, September 4, 1994. Professor Timmermann is known to lecture on the subject.

THE DIET OF THE MEXICA

The Mexica tended to eat quite well and adapted to their surrounding environment with ease(*20). Although there was limited year around fruit production in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were able to obtain necessary vitamins supplements of A and C from the various chilies they cultivated and used as condiments(*21). Although we tend to think of the Mexica as a strictly corn based society they cultivated another grain called "Huautli", or amaranth in large quantities(*22). Amaranth grain is high in protein and is today making a comeback in dietary popularity after centuries of lost general appeal. Cultivation of wild onions as well as tomatoes, called "xictomatl", and green tomatoes called "tomatl" (*23), were available as well as several squash varieties and mushrooms.


Cultivated root crops such as sweet potatoes, called "camotli"(*24), and the "jicama", a turnip like root, were served in a variety of meals. Meat was commercially raised and made available to the general population from the production of turkeys(*25), dogs(*26), mice, pigs(*27), wild sheep, and

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20 In their early history, before the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica tribe was banished to a rocky and unwanted section of land in the lake area that was infested with rattlesnakes. The Mexica soon developed a taste for rattlesnake meat and thrived as a tribe.

21 Chili pods were mostly roasted and then ground into a powder. The Aztec would boil this powder with water to make a kind of sauce similar to modern Tabasco sauce. Chili is an Aztec word the Spanish called them "pimientas" or peppers.

22 Amaranth fields were primarily located south of the lake area while corn was grown practically everywhere.

23 The Aztec taught the Spanish several ways to prepare tomatoes including cooked or mixed with peppers. The Spanish soon carried the seeds of this plant to Europe where it gained instant popularity. At first no one would eat the fruit of this plant and grew them strictly as decorations. Fear of the fruit was hard to overcome and as late at 1820 Robert Johnson of Salem, New Jersey publicly announced that he would eat a tomato on the steps of the city courthouse. Shocked townsfolk watched in horror as Mr. Johnson ate not one but a small basketful of tomatoes.

24 These were probably Dioscorea villosa, wild yams. Also known as colic root or rheumatism root. Wild yams were used medicinally as a diaphoretic and as a expectorant.

25 The cock turkey species that grew a blue wattle was thought to be an emblem of the deity Tezcatlipoca, and the gobbling sound made by this bird was a representation of his voice. Aztecs would display their symbols as a sign of reverence.

ducks(*28). People living outside the confines of the cities could always rely on hunting for other wild meat sources such as venison or rabbit. Insects as well as fish and a protein rich algae(*29) could be harvested from the lake areas(*30) and various streams. Varieties of beans were cultivated commercially and was a staple source for needed protein to the diet of the Mexica.

Some fruit production of the guava, (Psidium guajava), family, avocados, (Persea gratissima), and apples were combined with the heavy cultivation of the Maguay plant to provide needed diet supplements. An indigenous melon called "ayotli" was also harvested. The broad leaves of the nopal cactus, "tunafruit" were also consumed. Coconuts, (Cocos nucifera), were plentiful in the coastal regions which were conquered and under the control

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26 Nicholson's MEXICAN AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY , p. 37, related that these bred dogs were called "Xoloitzcuintli" and is not to be confused with the well known Chihuahua. This Xoloitzcuintli was a much larger dog and is today believed to be the first domesticated animal in all of the Americas. The breed was almost extinct until recently a dog fancier, Norman Pelham Wright, was able to obtain a few pure animals and as of the writing of her book at least seventy had been registered with the Mexican kennel club. Innes, p. 140, relates the Aztecs would often fatten and castrate these dogs for the dinner table. Fat from these dogs was used medicinally to clean wounds, a treatment that the Spaniards adopted.

27 Pigs raised were only semi-domesticated often caught as wild piglets. Cottie Burland, GODS AND FATE IN ANCIENT MEXICO , p.80, relates stories of these piglets being treated very well, even breast-feeding from the Aztec women.

28 It is likely that the poorer or common Mexica saw little of domesticated meat sources and that the majority of the meat went to the Nobel classes. With the exception of those living in the rural areas and able to hunt, the common Mexica saw little meat in the daily diet.

29 Innes, p. 140, relates that this algae was formed into cakes and tasted much like a kind of cheese.

30 The lake area provided a wealth of ready food items for the Mexica. Gillmore, p. 7, relates many creative ways in using the animals and food sources. One interesting collection method involved stretching out nets to catch low flying birds. Wild marsh grasses were collected rich with the eggs of waterflies. The eggs were sun dried and made into a paste.

of the Mexica empire and probably made their way in the form of tribute to Tenochtitlan.

The mainstay of the Mexica diet was the tortilla, made from corn. The tradition continues today with little change. The kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone.

The dough is formed into little round balls and then patted out by hand into thin round cakes or wrapped in a corn husk, the tamale, to then fill and eat.

Ritual (*31) can not be ignored, there are just too many references to it's widespread use. Reports of human flesh for sale in the great marketplace and numerous reports in the various codices associated with the Mexica, indicate the serving of human flesh for consumption in conjunction with festivals.

The flesh(*32) of the sacrificed victims was cooked with corn in a broth, the stew was called "tlacatlaolli"(*33).

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31 The word cannibalism is Spanish in origin referring to the Carib Indians. Cannibalism was not limited to the New World and has been practiced by many societies for many different reasons. While in the New World it was primarily used to join with the victim or as a food source. In areas such as Tibet and Micronesia, the dead were honored by eating the corpse.

32 Cannibalism was well established with the ancient Chichimecs who were known to kill their fellows for the only purpose of eating. Diaz reports that in Mexica society the unwanted parts of the sacrificial victims would be sold in the marketplace as protein. A common cooking method was to stew human flesh with corn and serve the dish as "tlacatlaolli" , loosely meaning "human stew" .

After a sacrifice the captor was often given the corpse of the person he took in battle and provided a feast for his friends and relatives but did not eat the flesh of the victim as he considered the dead victim as "his beloved son" . Others at the party ate with no such feelings. The captor viewed the victim as his mirrored self.

33 According to Boone's translation of the Codex Magliabechiano in her work, p. 213, human flesh was compared to the taste of pork. Boone further references that native Indians were fond of pork meat brought to New Spain after the conquest for this reason.

The actual glyph, contained in Nuttall's THE BOOK OF THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT MEXICANS (The Codex Magliabechiano), folio 73, depicts more than a stew and in fact indicates whole body parts, heads, arms, legs and other parts, in earthen jars being passed among Indians. An interesting essay titled Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano can be viewed on-line.

A favorite of the Mexica was the cacao bean(*34) which was roasted and ground, sometimes with parched corn, and added with water and beaten with a special stick to produce a frothy state. Cacao is also a source of fat(*35). This caffeine laden drink could then be flavored with honey or a wild vanilla(*36) extract to be consumed for either pleasure or as prescribed medicine.

Pulque(*37), a fermented alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant, is known to contain a generous portion of the helpful vitamin C and was also a favorite beverage, although drunkenness was punishable by death it did not seen to dampen the use of the drink and extensive private and public consumption was commonplace.

Maize was roasted to produce a form of popcorn(*38) and shelled peanuts were eaten by the population as well, and were probably enjoyed as a sort of "fun food" as snacks then, as much as they are consumed and in popular use today. Chewing gum was produced by the bitumen plant and used to clean the of the Mexica(*39).

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34 The cocoa bean was cultivated mostly in the coastal regions of the Tabasco and Veracruz regions as well as the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala. The cacao bean was a staple of tribute sent to Tenochtitlan as well as frequently used as a form of currency. The modern name cocoa is from the Mexica "chocolatl" . The unsweetened drink made from these beans was called "cacaoquahitl" and was made by simply boiling the dried beans in water. A second and tastier drink was called "chocolatl" and was thickened with vanilla, honey, and other spices.

..The following letter was sent to me through a discussion group I belong to and further details the subject of chocolate. FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE FOOD SECTION IN THE AZTEC LINK LIST. tom

. Actually, the Mexica called the drink by many names, depending on what recipe they were talking about, as chocolate could be (and was) served with all sorts of flavorings, including flowers, honey, ground chile, and many more ingredients. "Chocolatl" is not, though, a Nahuatl word. The more widely used name for cacao-based drinks among the Mexica was "cacauatl", which means "cacao water". The origin for our word "chocolate" appears to be a combination of Mayan and Nahuatl, as the Maya called their drink (which they preferred to drink hot, as opposed to the Mexica who apparently used it as a refreshment) "chocol ha", which literally means "hot water" in Yucatec. Since the Spaniards probably first came across the drink in the Maya area, it is probable that they picked the name "chocol ha" there, later changing the Mayan word for water ("ha") for the Nahuatl one ("atl"), thus forming the word "chocol atl" which was later changed to "chocolate" (there are plenty of examples in which Nahuatl words ending in "tl" were changed to a "te" ending by the Spaniards, who seem to have had a hard time with the pronunciation of Nahuatl words, to wit: tomate (originally "tomatl"), aguacate (originally, "ahuacatl"), cuate (originally "coatl"), metate ("¿metatl?"), etc.). As for the name of the fruit and its precious seeds ("cacao", from where the English word "cocoa" is derived), it probably is of Mixe-Zoquean origin, according to several linguists who have studied it. Its adoption in Mayan languages (in which it is written phonetically as ka-ka-w on vases and codices) is probably one of many things inherited by the Pre-Classic Maya from the Olmec.

I would unhesitatingly direct anybody interested in this subject to Sophie and Michael Coe's 'The True History of Chocolate" (Thames & Hudson, 1996).

Jorge Perez de Lara
Mexico


35 Yucatecs are known to have extracted a grease which was formed into a type of butter.

36 Vanilla beans, V. planifolia, derive from a wild orchid that grows wild in the lowlands of Eastern Mexico. The beans are harvested from a long thin pod that takes a year to grow. Of interest, the Mexican orchid is the only known orchid to be pollinated naturally, by bees, other world wide varieties must be pollinated by hand.

37 Pulque is actually a Spanish word as the Aztec made a form of wine called "Octli" , from this plant. Pulque may more resemble a form of what we may recognize as a type of beer.

38 Popcorn was called "momochitl" and was worn as a garland as well as other decorative uses.

39 Townsend, p. 172, related that snapping gum in public was considered rude or offensive.


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