Aztecs: An Interpretation. Inga Clendinnen.

Aztecs: An Interpretation.
Inga Clendinnen.
Cambridge: 1995.

Along with Bernal Diaz and Todorov, this is among the best Aztec books I’ve read. This book takes a close look at the rituals of Tenochtitlan and who those meant to the common people, as well as what they indicate to the historian.

Heavily underlined is the Aztec dependence on maize and their belief that humans were made of corn — because we eat, we owe the gods. This is why we must feed the gods our blood. Also of primary importance is the constant competition, skill, destiny which is always tempered by the capriciousness of the gods, and drastic luck.

She spends quite a bit of time maturely discussing the role of women, and includes an interesting discussion of breastfeeding and weaning. Another good chapter is on the sacred & art: the transient beauty attained by art can be a connection with the sacred, but the transient quality is as important as the beauty. The author’s epilog is just a paragraph, but is a beautiful piece of writing on historians. Lots of good notes in back.