Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Meaning of Mexico

What exactly does the word "Mexico" mean? Even the Mexicans don't know.

Originally, the area we now call Mexico was broken up into many smaller pre-Columbian Mesoamerican territories. They were all combined as one when Spain took over and dubbed the whole shebang "Virreinato de Nueva España" (Viceroyalty of New Spain). The capital was Mexico City, which had formerly been called México-Tenochtitlan in the good old ancient Aztec days.

Historians disagree over the etymology of the name "Mexico" and the word "Mexica" for its original Aztec inhabitants; we know the word is Nahuatl but we don't know what it actually means or its derivation.

The leading contenders are:

* Metztli - a Moon Goddess associated with Lake Texcoco, which was believed to be symbolic of the rabbit. Aztecs also saw a rabbit, rather than a face, on the Moon.

* Mextli - God of war and thunderstorms, to whom ritual sacrifice was necessary.

* Mectli - another name for Mayahuel, the Goddess of Maguey, aka Agave, that magickal and most holy succulent plant that gives us pulque, tequila, and my latest alcohological obsession, mezcal.

Now, you might think Mextli is the obvious choice, being the most similar, but those learned men of academia tend to lean toward Metztli as being more likely. Me, I would prefer to root for Mectli, since I genuflect often at the altar of the Goddess of Maguey.

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