Aztec Migration from Aztlán to Tenochtitlan 

            With the lack of written text, obscurity has been clasps upon some aspects of the Aztecs civilization although some light is shed upon it through the preservation of oral traditions. The Mexica (meh-SHEE-ka), known as the Aztecs, traveled many years from their northern homeland, Aztlan, to their new home Tenochtitlan. Their willpower and obedience to their gods and beliefs lead them to true power. Their migration from Aztlán to Tenochtitlan influenced our world through their innovations and improvements molding our universal society today. 

            An island called Aztlán also known as Chicomostoc [chee-co-MOH-stok], which means Place of the Seven Caves, was the homeland of the Aztecs. The precise location of Aztlan is to this day a controversial case, “located somewhere north of the Basin of Mexico [where the Aztecs lived a very suitable and flourishing life]” ("The Aztec World " 4).  According to the Aztec codex Tira de la Peregrinacion, also known as the Migration Scrolls or Codex Boturini , shows the voluntary migration of the Aztecs to their promise land. They were not forced to leave their wonderful and prosperous homeland Aztlán which would be considered forced migration, violence causing people to migrate. They believed that they were the chosen people of Huitzilopochtli, god and protector of the Aztecs. In addition, that Huitzilopochtli told one of the four priests illustrated on the Tira de la Peregrinacion to lead the Mexica south were they would find their promise land. They used canoes, light narrow pointed boats, to move out of Aztlán to the mainland, where they began a long internal migration. They were considered emigrants which are people that leave a place, in this case migrating out of Aztlán. So far, no text shows who was left behind in Aztlán, concluding that Aztlán became deserted after the Aztecs migrated out and was lost for eternity.    

            Lee’s Model of Migration states that there are push and pull factors in sites, homeland and promise land, intervening opportunities, and intervening obstacles. Some push factors that made their homeland seem unlivable was the regret and conscious of knowing they did not follow or grant their god’s wishes to migrate out of Aztlan. Their religion is a very powerful aspect of their tribe in which they are expected to respect and follow. The Aztecs also had pull factors that derived them to their promise land. The satisfaction of knowing they were loyal to their god’s wishes and good fortune would be repaid for their loyalty. The admiration of future Aztecs for their sacrifices of leaving their homeland in search for their promise land. Two decisions that the Aztecs might have answered before migrating out of Aztlan; moving is better then staying and difficulties in moving counterweight expected rewards of a better life in the new land. Aztecs also encountered intervening obstacles, which are cultural or environmental features of landscape that hinders the migration, in this case the desert and mountains. Intervening opportunities are usually places more attractive than their original destination. The Aztecs might had encountered places that they found pleasing in which they would settle and some migrants would stay behind while others left in search for their promise land. 

            The Aztecs step migration consisted of many stopping points in which they settled for a period of time and moved on, in search for their promise land. They did not just go from point A to point B; they use relocation diffusion to move various times until they found their promise land. At this point, the Aztecs were considered migrants; people moving from one place to another. Relocation diffusion is the process in which the Aztecs migrated, physically moving from one place to another. Their migration took many years to complete:

            During the 12th and 13th century, the Aztecs lead by their chieftain Tenoch straggled into the Valley of Mexico [also called the Valley of Anahuac.] The Valley consisted of several city-states of Nahua-speaking people: Cholula, Huexotzingo, Xochimilco, Chapultepec, Culhuacan, Tlaxcala, Atzcapotzalco, Chalco, and Tlacopan. No city was powerful enough to dominate other cities, and they were all somewhat united by a common Toltec background. The Aztecs were poor, ragged migrants who survived on vermin, snakes, and stolen food. Hatred and rejected by all the surrounding inhabitants of the valley, for their barbarous and uncultured habits. (Nixie, Almendra, and DryBoy 6)

Inhabits of the Valley of Mexico considered the Aztecs immigrants; which are people moving into an area. They were not warm welcome but determine to find their promise land found settlement in the Valley of Mexico:

            “[The Aztecs settled temporarily in Chapultepec near Lake Texcoco. Unfortunately, the ruler was Azcapotzalco and they were soon expelled, also called force migration. After their expulsion from Chapultepec, they migrated to Culhuacan, in which the ruler, Cocoxtli, granted them permission to settle in the empty barrens of Tizapan in 1299. They started to assimilate to the Culhuacan culture by marrying Culhuacan women that would teach their children about their non-Aztec culture. In 1323, the Aztecs asked the new ruler of Culhuacan, Achicometl, for his daughter promising to make her the goddess Yaocihuatl. The Mexica sacrificed her as a human sacrifice for their gods. The inhabitants of Culhuacan were horrified from the Aztecs actions and expelled them in 1325 (force migration). In that same year, 1323, one of the four priests had a vision from Huitzilopochtli of an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus, clutching a snake in its talons. This represented the location of their promise land in which they would build their empire. After their explosion from Culhuacan, they migrated and settle near Lake Texcoco, which they paid heavy tributes to Azcapotzalco, because the islet was under his jurisdiction during that time. They were able to sustain themselves there for half a century, by hiring themselves as mercenaries for Tepanecs ruler of Azcapotzalco. In wars, this broke the balance of power between cities and eventually they gained enough glory to obtain royal marriages. In 1325, the Aztecs found their prophesy of an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus, clutching a snake in its talons on an islet in the center of Lake Texcoco. There they raised a city called Tenochtitlan that became the capital city of a soon to be vast empire.]” (Nixie, Almendra, and DryBoy 2)

Others have a different route in which they believed the Aztecs took, “[The Aztecs migration did start in Aztlan but they first settled in Atzcapotzalco, place of the anthill, in the Valley of Mexico for four years instead of Chapultepec. Then they migrated to Acalhuacan, place of the canoes, for four years. In 1325 A.D. they found their promise land Tenochtitlan” (Jordan-Bychkov 238).

            After they were driven from one place to another for their abnormal cultural traits, they found refuge and their promise land in an islet on Lake Texcoco. Here they built their capital Tenochtitlan, the city of Tenoch, their leader that lead them through their migration. This became the node or center place of their vast growing empire. They built magnificent, elaborate, step pyramids that were use for human sacrifices as offerings for their gods. They were a polytheistic religion in which they believed in many gods. They utilize an agricultural style that used Chinampas, manmade agricultural islands constructed of long poles embedded into Lake Texcoco’s bottom and filled with soil to the lakes surface, were they would grow their crops. With the construction of Chinampas within the lake allowed water to supply constant nutriment for the crops for year round farming. A 5 ½ mile long by 23 feet wide dike was built to separated salt water from fresh water within Lake Texcoco. With these improvements the Aztecs were able to grow beans, squash, limes, chilies, cashews, potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes, and chocolate some of many foods cultivated by the Aztecs. Jaime describes the Aztecs daily diet and the process of gathering food:

“[Maize “corn” played a critical role during the Aztec empire. Corn is use to make flour in which tortillas, tamales, candy and even drinks are made of. Maize originated from Mexico and then spread throughout the world, and has transformed the world perhaps more than any other food in the world. Mexico is still one of the world’s top maize growing countries. Maize and beans was a healthy combination the Aztecs used when meat was scarce. The Aztecs domesticated many wild animals; bees for honey, turkeys and ducks for meat and eggs. They also hunted deer, rabbits, iguanas, fish and shrimp for food. These various types of meat made up only a small section in the Aztec’s diet. Algae found on the surface Lake Texcoco is high in protein and used to make bread and cheese which was a very common diet of Aztecs. This alga is still use in Mexico as a fertilizer. Many foods were passed on by Aztecs that molds our culture today.]” (1)

Their diet becomes an important factor of their culture and the consumption of nutrients gave them strength to survive and overcome dieses.

            The Aztecs migration from Aztlan to Tenochtitlan affected our world today dramatically. The Aztecs created one of the greatest civilizations in human history. Their willpower and obedience to their gods and beliefs lead them to true power influencing future societies. Their innovations and improvements molded many aspects of life today. The Aztec’s civilization was able to scar the surface of the earth a scar that will never fad away.

Works Cited

"The Aztec World ". The Field Museum. 4 Dec. 2008           <>.          

Jaime . "Aztec Food." Aztec History . 6 Dec. 2008    food.html.

Jordan-Bychkov , Terry, Mona Domosh , Roberick Neumann , and Patricia Price .The Human       Mosaic . New York : W.H. Freeman and Company , 2006.  

Nixie , Almendra , and DryBoy . "Tell Me About Aztecs History ." Yahoo Answers . 2006.          Yahoo . 6 Dec. 2008