Looking for the limits of Mexica commerce: Paying tribute to the empire
We know many things about the Mexicas: that theirs was a warlike society, highly urbanized, which founded the city of Tenochtitlan in an islet in the middle of a lake, that said city became the most important city of an imperial state conformed by two other city-states: Texcoco and Tlacopan (Tacuba), the Triple Alliance, whose influence reached what is now the region located in the countries of Honduras and Nicaragua.
Certainly, regarding the above statement, some theories suggest that the name Nicaragua comes from the composition of the words in Nahuatl (the ancient language spoken by the Mexicas) that mean “place where the kingdom of Anahuac ends.” That is why in this new series I would like to answer the following question: what was the nature of the Mexica trade? What was its reach? Is it true that, as some have wondered, its influence was so great that it went beyond the borders of Mesoamerica and came into contact with the other great pre-Columbian empire of the south, the Inca?
Throughout history, commerce has always been a great element in the territorial extension of states and in their interaction with others. Geopolitics allows us to understand political events through geographic variables, that is, we understand how states or nations behave, what their political power is, in relation to the geographical space where they are settled and the natural resources they can have access to.
Several empires have emerged, reached their power and collapsed following these variables. There are many archaeological sources indicating the invasion of Teotihuacan to the Maya region in order to extend the trade of obsidian, the vitreous volcanic stone used for knives, ornaments and tools, which was an essential resource in the consolidation of the Teotihuacan empire southward Mesoamerica.
So if trade is an important element in the extent and interaction of empires, how far did Aztec influence go? What resources were important to the trade of this civilization? The Aztec was an empire made up of a center-periphery system of allies and peoples subdued around a center, that is, of the three great cities of the Triple Alliance, which offered military aid or paid tribute. To the capital of the empire, Tenochtitlan, products from all the corners of the kingdom arrived that later were commercialized. The main sources on the tributary trade, the Matrícula de Tributos (The Tribute Roll) and the Codex Mendoza indicate that the wealth of the empire was enormous: precious stones, gold, jade, fine feathers, turquoise, masks, smoking pipes, dyes; agricultural products such as maize, beans, chia, huahtli, cocoa, chilies; honey, salt, various weapons of war, building materials, amate paper, cotton blankets and clothing of various types such as ceremonial costumes or animal skins. Through this tribute, the three great cities of the empire increased their wealth, maintained their sumptuous palaces, militarily subjugated the peripheral peoples, increased their dominion and contributed to future conquests and alliances. In the next installment we will talk a little more about how the provinces paid tribute and the taxes imposed by the empire, the system of weights and measures used by the Mexicas and the specific products that each of them had to submit.