Aztec, Mayan Brutality

It is a fact of history that the Spanish conquerors were the most brutal ‘colonizers’ in history. What they did to the Aztecs and Mayans is utterly unforgivable. Yet, what has always been a contentious part, is whether the Aztec and Mayan practice of human sacrifice was as widespread and horrifying as the Spanish conquerors said.

Well, it looks like it was:

In recent years archaeologists have been uncovering mounting physical evidence that corroborates the Spanish accounts in substance, if not number.

Using high-tech forensic tools, archaeologists are proving that pre-Hispanic sacrifices often involved children and a broad array of intentionally brutal killing methods.

More here.

HatTip: LatinoPundit.

51 Responses to “Aztec, Mayan Brutality”


  • The horror, the horror! I believe that one shouldn’t judge past events with 21st century eyes. Speacially when the death of the many in those cultures had other purposes. Inasmuch as today there are people being put to death in wars, electric chairs and decapitations without a purpose at all it makes sense at the very least that death had a better purpose than those being put death today.

  • Ps: you can’t apply christian values either, the Aztec or Mayans had other deities to deal with. Todays God demands blood in other ways and just as christians fear the wrath of God so to did the Mayans and Aztec feared the wrath of their gods as well.

  • I don’t care what god you worship (christian/muslim/or aztec and mayen), or what morals were in place at the time, if you burn/sacrifice children (6 yr old children), you are doing something wrong, PERIOD.

    This is another reason why I think moral/cultural relativism is a bankrupt philosophy.

  • Good point Alfonso, I agree with you. It is good that Christianity and Islam have outlawed the sacrifice of children. Even in ancient babylonian cultures and others (if you read the bible), children sacrifice was common. Some scholars believe that the story of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac (in the bible), but then sacrficing an animal instead (because God appeared to him in the burning bush), reveals that God was teaching people NOT to engage in human sacrifice anymore.

  • Hmmm. I can’t agree with that thinking. It is simply to absolute and a tad extreme. Even if you are thinking as a human being with morals that only have in place for the past 2000 years. How can you judge them wrong? What higher authority have you to deem so? And why does it bother you so much? One, you weren’t there and Archeology is based, like any imperical science, in speculation. It is curious that those who doubt cannot manage to doubt doubt.

  • This is yet another reason why I can’t be a moral/cultural relativist. It is because of the double standards that are always involved.

    Let me turn this around Julio, and ask you the same questions. Do you think that the Spanish Conquerors were (objectively) wrong in what they did to the Aztec and Mayan cultures? If you do, why? I mean, based on your standards, they were not (objectively) wrong. Most, if not all, of what they did was perfectly acceptable within the culture they were in, they did not violate any big culture morals. In fact, conquering and pilaging other land, raping the women, and even forcing people into slavery was all generally acceptable back than. So how do you judge the Spanish wrong, yet not the Aztecs?

    You can’t, either you accept moral/cultural relativism completely, and deny either party did anything objectively wrong, or you deny moral/cultural relativism completely and accept that both parties did something objectively wrong. Those are your choices…but to use one when it benefits you, and use the other when it benefits you is not only philosophically absurd, but hypocritical.

  • For the record, as the second sentence in this blog indicates, I take the latter position; both the Spanish and Aztec/Mayan were wrong.

  • Funny the discussion has turned along the terms of who should be judging who and comparing it with modern day horrors. There is a way to dismiss actions without passing judgements and we can circumvent this whole discussion.

    We can simply say that the sacrifice of children in other cultures is a disagreeable act, that serves disagreeable gods. Likewise, the act of war is disagreeable no matter what morality on such is based.

  • Hey LP,

    So you choose the moral/relativistic approach…and that is fine. But I doubt many really mean that when they say that the Spanish Conquerors were wrong. They (and I bet Julio would agree with me here) seem to imply they were absolutely wrong, objectively wrong, regardless of whether or not it was an acceptable practice at the time. In other words, people (rightly) don’t just ‘disagree’ with what the Conquerors did, they imply they violated an absolute transcendental moral law.

    I’m saying that is fine (and I agree), lets just be consistent and apply the same standard towards the Aztec/Mayan.

    And as for your comparison with war, I don’t see the parallel. Practically all religions believe that killing 6 year old children for sacrifice is inherently wrong, on the other hand, practically all religions teach that there is a time and a place for war. War, unlike killing 6 year old children, is not always wrong.

    You may say some wars are wrong, and that is fine. But to say the two are viewed the same by religions (especially mainstream ones) is to go too far.

  • Well, the way I was thinking is that one cannot apply a moral system that has less than 2000 years in place and even less so in the Americas, little over 500 I believe, to events that knew nothing of the concepts of morality as we know them today. But I think the topic has taken turns that these kind of conversations tend to do, anyways, thanks for the feedback Mr Hispani Pundit.

  • PS: Chronologically speaking and just to add fuel to the burning fire, the Spaniards did have the same moral system with which you are basing your reproach to the killing of children in Mesoamerica. Yet the Mesoamericans did not. Does that change anything? All am saying is that the word ‘wrong’ is used here with its modern connotations and that perhaps do not apply to 13th century Mesoamerica, that’s all.

  • “Victims had their hearts cut out or were decapitated, shot full of arrows, clawed, sliced to death, stoned, skinned, buried alive or tossed from the tops of temples”.

    –The news article

    “All am saying is that the word ‘wrong’ is used here with its modern connotations and that perhaps do not apply to 13th century Mesoamerica, that’s
    all”.

    –Julio Sueco

    I thought everyone understood pain. If the ancient Aztecs and Mayans did not understand “pain” why did they pick on children that couldn’t defend themselves? If they loved their gods so much, why didn’t they offer themselves?

    Ignorance is not an excuse in this scenario. Surely back in those days……..they understood pain. Surely they understood that touching fire would burn them or touching a pointed arrow would cause a tear in the skin and hurt. :? I don’t get you Julio.

  • The Spaniards didn’t sacrifice women and children, the Aztec/Mayan did. Given the standards at the time, what the Spaniards did to the Aztec/Mayan was overall reasonable and acceptable. Just like it was reasonable and acceptable (even encouraged) to sacrifice women and children in Aztec/Mayan culture.

    All am saying is that the word ‘wrong’ is used here with its modern connotations and that perhaps do not apply to 13th century Mesoamerica, that’s all.

    That’s fine, if you’re going to take the moral/cultural relativistic approach, apply it equally to both. I take the objective/absolute approach, and I am applying it to both (both were ‘wrong’).

    Thanks for stopping by, you are welcome here anytime.

  • Your absolutist view baffles me inasmuch as you make it sound as if you were there to witness the spanish-aztec encounter. You say, in absolutist fashion, that spanirds did not kill children. I am not challenging you to provide proof, but I do question the veracity of that statement because you contradict yourself there. You adamantly insist that both people were wrong yet you solemnly absolve the spaniards on the account that they did not kill children. It happened so long ago, how can one be absolutely certain that spaniards did not engage in infanticide? Just wondering, and am sorry for bugging and insisting on this topic when you have so many new other interesting stuff to read, but it is interesting to see the difference of opinion.

  • Were sorda saying the same thing…we just disagree on the degrees involved.

    It is a historical fact that the Spaniards did some horrendous things to the Aztec/Mayan people. It is also, as the article above demonstrates, a historical fact that the Aztec/Mayan people did some horrendous things to their own people (specifically women and children). Just sticking to the facts here, and not moving into the purely hypothetical, we can say that *both* groups of people did something you and I personally disagree with. That we agree on.

    However, when talking to people about this, especially my Mexican/Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters, they don’t speak about the Spanish, and their actions, as if they *merely* did something disagreeable. They (rightly, I still agree here) speak about the actions of the Spanish as if they committed an act so vile that it transcends cultural norms, that they violated an absolute transcendental moral law.

    In other words, they speak about the act as if it is an absolute, objective, moral law to not treat other cultures the way the Spanish did the Aztec/Mayan, and since the Spanish violated that law, they were wrong regardless of the norms at the time.

    All is fine up to this point…we are completely in agreement. But where the disagreement lies, is that usually this same person will than turn around, and not apply the same standard to the Aztec/Mayan. When the topic of women and children sacrifice is brought up, they will say what you say now, ‘well, that was acceptable to the culture at the time, so we can’t judge them with our current morality’. Well, if that is the case, how do you judge the Spanish? They were overall within their cultural boundaries to do what they did to the Aztec/Mayan people also? If your philosophy dictates to give cultures breaks depending on the circumstances of the time, those breaks should be applied equally, to both Spanish and Aztec/Mayan. If your philosophy dictates that there are morals that transcend cultures, than both cultures should be judged by those same morals. You can’t use one standard in one instance, and another standard in another instance.

    This is the whole moral/relativistic vs. moral/absolutist philosophy issue. You can pick one or the other…but you can’t mix the two.

    Me entiendes?

  • I thought this speech by Mark Helprin was relevant to the discussion:

    [exerpt]

    Several years ago, I was speaking in a university town in Massachusetts. By some quirk which I hope never to see reproduced, and before I knew what was happening, I found myself debating my entire audience on the subjects of human sacrifice and cannibalism. These well-educated and polite people — only a few of whom would actually have murdered or eaten one another — who had sons and daughters, Ph.D.s, and BMWs, were defending the Mayan and Aztec practice of human sacrifice — that is, in the main, of children — and the South Sea custom of cannibalism. It wasn’t that they were for such things: they weren’t. It wasn’t that they were not against them: they were. It was that to take the position that human sacrifice and cannibalism are wrong is not only to reject relativism but to place oneself decisively in the ranks of Western Civilization, such a position being one of its characteristic distinctions, and this they would not do. They were ashamed to do so, and they were afraid to do so. My charge to you is that in this, you never be either ashamed or afraid.

    Civilization is vulnerable not only to munitions; it is vulnerable to cowardice and betrayal. It is a great and massive thing of many dimensions that can be attacked from many angles. When professors of ethics at leading universities advocate infanticide, you know that civilization is under attack. When governments and churches advocate racial discrimination, you know that civilization is under attack. When a popular “art” exhibit consists of human cadavers in various states of mutilation, including a bisected pregnant woman and her unborn child, you know that civilization is under attack. The list is endless. The daily assault could fill an encyclopedia of decadence and degradation.

    You must never fail to stand against such things, to use your education to break the sophistry that surrounds them, and to draw upon it to summon the memory of a thousand struggles, of ten thousand battles, and of the countless millions who fell to establish and defend those principles that not long ago were called self-evident, and that, now and forever, absent moral cowardice, are self-evident.

    http://www.claremont.org/writings/020524helprin.html

    Also, I’ve got some more Helprin quotes here if anyone is interested:

    http://www.economicswithaface.com/weblog/archives/2004/11/helprin_and_art.html

  • I get angry thinking killing kids can only be a practice enjoyed by sickos who find themselves in power and advocate it and make the followers suffer, and then I cool down and think if killing kids will bring rain, it’s a necessary evil. Then I think: Yo tambien hablo de la rosa (Carballido) and I want to watch a couple of kids derail a freight train.

    Whichever works for me in my life, be it absolutist or relativist approach, I’m gonna use (with a leaning towards both). But it’s hard to look at Aztec sacrificial practices and aplly either- the statute of limitation ran out 500 years ago. But because I don’t believe killing kids brings rain, it’s not something I would support and is definitely something I work against.

  • But you probably are also overall satisfied with the land you have, and have no desire to find gold, spread your faith, or even destroy some ‘heathens’ either. So is it safe to assume you use the same standard equally? ;-)

  • Land literally, no, but it’s a dream. Land in the sense of comfort? Well, I gotta plan. Spread my faith? There’s nothing to spread. And destroy “heathens”? Come on- the term is assimilate! Yes, that is a chunk of my life, but the assimilation door works both ways. But I’m not sure I understand the question regarding the Spanish. Though a few were genocidal 500 years ago, I don’t think the majority of those particular regional ethnicities share the same genocidal/assimilationist designs these days. Let’s face it- my reality lies on January 27, 2005. Hurting kids or eliminating those that like to hurt kids 500 years ago is out of my jurisdiction for judgment. I’m stuck presently and locally learning from the common sense, however horrifying it may be- from the past- and avoiding it in the future. Damn! You got me in a weak moment! Absolutist. But gimme 5 minutes and I’ll be back to relativism. Hence the Carballido reference- the processual analyis concept that negates frameworks on truth.

  • OK, now the wife is denying the Aztecs never sacrificed children, even the ones who cried to appease the gods: “All shared one feature: serious cavities, abscesses or bone infections painful enough to make them cry.” She’s Tlahuica, so it’s time I withdraw from the conversation. But at this point of withdrawing from the conversation, my modern lens claims that during a drought and no doubt intense hunger, if there’s any predisposition for getting rid of stress factors like crying children, for instance appeasing old Huitzilopotchle himself, you end up in the black. See! I told you my relativist lens would come back!

    But my wife continues to deny any of this took place. I’m going to have to regress to absolutist again and claim that keeping the wife happy is the moral thing to do- regardless the culture or the mix.

  • LOL. I think you made the right decision.

    Thanks for stopping by. :)

  • Please consider, murder and rape were objected by catholicism at the time. The fault with the Spanish is that they sent the worst to colonize the land, criminals, the insane, etc.

  • i think you all have smaller penises than myself

  • cristianity is the way to go! aztecs were following the wrong religion and being blasphemous!

  • Moral Relativism

    I stumbled across this link. Funny that no one has brought up the modern day (2005) practice of child sacrifice that takes place every day in the United States. To the pagan god, Molech, children are murdered while still in the womb. It is child sacrifice. The alter is selifishness. The god is Molech.

    The battle rages on.

    F*** the Mayans
    Go save some Americans…

  • I’m so happy that Spaniards came to my neck of the jungle. I don’t judge them, their militaristic ways, or whatever it is that some people don’t like about them.

    Let me simply state, that if Spaniards didn’t bring the Holy Eucharist to my ancestors, I’d probably be hunting all of you down and eating you. Yes, I’m that competitive by nature. But, as God’s Grace would have it, I’d rather please the Virgin Mary than eat human flesh…so you can all let out a collective sigh of relief. I’m not going to eat you.

    Human sacrifice and cannibalism do not satiate the desires of the human heart. Only Jesus can do that. I’ve tried a lot of other anti-eucharist secular garbage out there (not cannibalism, of course) but only the Sacraments will work.

    If you doubt the “nature” of Hispanic souls and the satanic attraction they’d find without Jesus, just examine a few photos of the worst tatooed maffia members and criminal societies. They think they love God, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary, but none of these criminals have heard an unperverted message of Christ. The devil never left this part of the world. Satan still thinks that we want to return to our old ways. When I see the naked aggression of such a criminal mindset, I cannot ignore the Value of Christianity. I hope none of us ignore His Message.

  • According to the ethical standards of the moral relativists, respecting the beliefs, mores and practices of other peoples and cultures is the inviolable commandment. The Aztecs and Mayans were committing barbaric acts…. by our standards, yes…. but they were not imposing their beliefs and ways on the Spanish. The Spanish, however, were judging and imposing their beliefs and cultural norms on them, thus transgressing that “sacred” commandment. This is what makes Western Culture so offensive and shameful to these good (liberal?), university people of Massachusetts, referred to in the speech by Mark Helprin in the comment 16 by Peter..

    Of course, we are put in the position of having imposed on us the ethical standards of the moral relativists. I know…. there is no escaping hypocrisy when morals are left up us. I’ve written a short essay on a related subject. Read it at:
    http://nomanisland321.blogspot.com/2005/11/humanist-heritage-one-has-heard.html

  • Whos to say God and jesus is correct or the right way? If the Aztec or Mayans conquered the world, Their believes would be common along with Human sacrifices and those who beleived it was wrong would be looked at like wierdos just like now-a-days when people believe sacrifices are normal. Right now Christianity, The bible, GOD, are the true problems of the world and the cause of all killing.

  • Well that is the rub Greg, some of us believe that human sacrifice, the intentional killing of innocent people, is so against objective morality that the two scenarios wouldn’t have been the same.

    Had the Aztecs conquered the world and human sacrifice became the norm, that world would have been morally inferior to one that had no human sacrifice.

  • I have been researching on the origins and decline of the Maya civilization for a term paper. I of course, found much of the mateial disturbing and hard to read. When you humanize the people and animals, understanding that they too are human, you are baffled by such brutality in a civilization. I have always had problems with innocents being killed, and those who can’t speak for themselves, such as animals. I can’t stand the fact that their is such evil in the world, but the point is…there is and will always be evil. You can fight it all your life and make almost no difference. It’s a harsh fact, but it’s reality. Anyway, I have a big issue with people pretending they know what Mayan decendants are going through right now. They are descriminated against because of their ancestory, which is completely ridiculous because it’s not as if they are performing these acts right now. The past is in the past…get over it.

    I am a decendant of the Guarani people, a tribe of people who were located mostly in Paraguy, South America. They practiced cannibalism, and even ate their own dead. Many were reformed by the Jesuit priests who delt specifically with the Guarani people. Yes, my ancestors did many things I do not believe in. But that past doesn’t hold me down, I didn’t eat anybody so who cares? People dwell on these things too long. I was lucky enough to have been adopted at a young age into a wonderful American family, and I have a good life. I don’t cry about my great-great-great-great grandfather eating people, it was his culture, and before the Guarani people knew Christ, most likely they didn’t know any better.

    The point is, focus on something you can actually change. You can’t go back in a time machine and change the Mayans, so who cares what your opinion on an ancient sacred act is. Focus on the horrors going on right now, the war in Iraq…where innocents are being blown up right now, or Africa and the truth about diamonds…come on people no one is being eaten right now. Focus on something a little more legit.

  • I would’ve thought that at least someone here would’ve known of the fact that the spaniards threw babies in the air and let them fall onto their bayonets, and also fed the indigenous babies to their war dogs. Aside from that, we have American soldiers who slaughtered men, women ,and children of native american tribes, who were not engaged in a battle of any sorts. They then cut off the womens nipples and made them into necklaces, and cut out parts of their vaginas to wear on their hats. And before you denounce these claims, do me a favor and research it. It is a known fact. And what religion do you think these American soldiers practiced? What the european nations did to the americas was genocide, a native american holocausr. Which gets no type of compassion compared to other events. Think about this the next time you hear about the washington redskins.

  • hello actually sacrificing for aztecs would be a great honour many aztec warriors voulentered to be sacraficed to the gods in serious rituals as far as the not so serious ones im guessing thats where the children came up =\

  • Did the children volunteer too?

  • “You can fight it all your life and make almost no difference.”
    -Nadia Benitez

    “To the one starfish you throw back into the ocean, it makes all the difference.”
    -Thomas Thorton

    Personally my conviction of faith falls somewhere between humanist and Christian – the former surfacing whenever I realize that Yahweh has allowed moments of hell to exist on earth – and like Ms. Benitez I too have gone into emotional fits when I read or hear about such behavior in the past and present.

    To be honest I have an enduring soft spot for the theory behind moral relativism, but at least one single absolute evil seems obvious to me: torturing the innocent. No circumstance in existence warrants such a thing, even if it would save a city, region, country, planet or galaxy. And most often such acts are done with far less grand a goal, like to provide a luxury or satisfy a devilish psychosis.

    But I digress.

    Pax,
    Stat

  • Who are we to pass judgement onto a civilization we have never fully understood? We impose war on other countries willingly accept that innocent men, women and children die by bombs and guns paid by money we have entrusted to our governments. We say: “This is the price for peace and freedom.” “We have to make great sacrifices.”

    Before any of us points their finger at others you should consider how many third world children have to sacrifice their childhood making cheap shoes for internet philosophers fighting their little wars about relativistic and realistic views of the world.

    Why don’t you just go about and try to make this world better? It’s hard to fight windmills.. And maybe that’s the reason why an Aztec mother would give her child for sacrifice. she had no choice but to accept her and her child’s fate.

    We all give in to the powers that appear so much greater than us. look outside of the box and you will find out that we are no better than any other culture, past or present. we just have other standards.

  • I didn’t read any of the responses, but its kind of hard to listen to someone who doesn’t realize that the Aztec civilization came long after the Mayans, and that the Spanish conquerors only saw the ruins of the Mayan world. Wtf lrn2research.

  • The Spaniards were murdering liars.

    Who would want to believe their lies?

    You?

    Together with the Dutch, English, French, Portuguese, etc., they literally wiped out the Aztecs, Cherokees, Iroquois, Cheyennes, Apaches, etc., respectively. Good thing they didn’t try wiping out Zonggou.

    Probably they wiped out Atlantis and others, too. Geeze! Those Vikings sure were mean, too!! And the Japanese! Man! They were cruel!

    Oh, yeah, the Israelites, led by Joshua. Darn! They were murdering immigrants!! Geeze!!

    The Germans! Man, oh, man! I know you heard about them, too!!

    Those people were mean!!!

  • …and lets not forget the Aztecs! Now, they were really cruel! :-)

  • Kavita Madhuri

    ya betcha!

  • Kavita Madhuri

    u bet!

  • I would like to bring up an issue related to Spanish brutality.

    I would like to know what you think of those who arrived in what it is nowadays the US and killed EVERY Native American or put them in reservation camps to avoid the horror of being reminded of their extreme brutality.

    I would like to know whether South American natives would have chosen, given the chance, being conquered by other cultures, those who exterminate pity, and leave no trace of their shame.

  • First of all who is this guy? Mark Stevenson from The Associated Press, have you asked yourselves anything about his background, questioned whether he may be biased, racist, bigoted, ignorant, prejudiced, now dont take my words out of context I said may be, a possibility? Do you always believe what you read? And these archeologists, how experienced are they? Julio Sueco I couldn’t have worded it any better’ “if you are thinking as a human being with morals that only have in place for the past 2000 years. How can you judge them wrong? What higher authority have you to deem so? And why does it bother you so much? One, you weren’t there and Archeology is based, like any imperical science, in speculation.” Thank goodness that there are people who are smart enough to know that there may be biases in archaelogy, I have to question do they know for certainty that these remains were killed by their own, how do we know they weren’t from the hands of the Spanish? Great point brought up you weren’t there, we can only speculate until some solid evidence is presented. I bring you this article to analyze, Columbus Day Celebration? Think Again… by Thom Hartmann
    “Gold is most excellent; gold constitutes treasure; and he who has it does all he wants in the world, and can even lift souls up to Paradise.” — Christopher Columbus, 1503 letter to the king and queen of Spain. “Christopher Columbus not only opened the door to a New World, but also set an example for us all by showing what monumental feats can be accomplished through perseverance and faith.” –George H.W. Bush, 1989 speech If you fly over the country of Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, the island on which Columbus landed, it looks like somebody took a blowtorch and burned away anything green. Even the ocean around the port capital of Port au Prince is choked for miles with the brown of human sewage and eroded topsoil. From the air, it looks like a lava flow spilling out into the sea. The history of this small island is, in many ways, a microcosm for what’s happening in the whole world. When Columbus first landed on Hispaniola in 1492, virtually the entire island was covered by lush forest. The Taino “Indians” who loved there had an apparently idyllic life prior to Columbus, from the reports left to us by literate members of Columbus’s crew such as Miguel Cuneo. When Columbus and his crew arrived on their second visit to Hispaniola, however, they took captive about two thousand local villagers who had come out to greet them. Cuneo wrote: “When our caravels… where to leave for Spain, we gathered…one thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians, and these we embarked in our caravels on February 17, 1495…For those who remained, we let it be known (to the Spaniards who manned the island’s fort) in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done.” Cuneo further notes that he himself took a beautiful teenage Carib as his personal slave, a gift from Columbus himself, but that when he attempted to with her, she “resisted with all her strength.” So, in his own words, he “thrashed her mercilessly and d her.” While Columbus once referred to the Taino Indians as cannibals, a story made up by Columbus – which is to this day still taught in some US schools – to help justify his slaughter and enslavement of these people. He wrote to the Spanish monarchs in 1493: “It is possible, with the name of the Holy Trinity, to sell all the slaves which it is possible to sell…Here there are so many of these slaves, and also brazilwood, that although they are living things they are as good as gold…” Columbus and his men also used the Taino as slaves: it was a common reward for Columbus’ men for him to present them with local women to . As he began exporting Taino as slaves to other parts of the world, the -slave trade became an important part of the business, as Columbus wrote to a friend in 1500: “A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for s; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand.” However, the Taino turned out not to be particularly good workers in the plantations that the Spaniards and later the French established on Hispaniola: they resented their lands and children being taken, and attempted to fight back against the invaders. Since the Taino where obviously standing in the way of Spain’s progress, Columbus sought to impose discipline on them. For even a minor offense, an Indian’s nose or ear was cut off, se he could go back to his village to impress the people with the brutality the Spanish were capable of. Columbus attacked them with dogs, skewered them with pikes, and shot them. Eventually, life for the Taino became so unbearable that, as Pedro de Cordoba wrote Ferdinand in a 1517 letter, “As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen . Occasionally a hundred have committed mass . The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth… Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.” Eventually, Columbus and later his brother Bartholomew Columbus who he left in charge of the island, simply resorted to wiping out the Taino altogether. Prior to Columbus’ arrival, some scholars place the population of Haiti/Hispaniola (now at 16 million) at around 1.5 to 3 million people. By 1496, it was down to 1.1 million, according to a census done by Bartholomew Columbus. By 1516, the indigenous population was 12,000, and according to Las Casas (who were there) by 1542 fewer than 200 natives were alive. By 1555, every single one was . This wasn’t just the story of Hispaniola; the same has been done to indigenous peoples worldwide. Slavery, apartheid, and the entire concept of conservative Darwinian Economics, have been used to justify continued suffering by masses of human beings. Dr. Jack Forbes, Professor of Native American Studies at the University of California at Davis and author of the brilliant book “Columbus and Other Cannibals,” uses the Native American word wétiko (pronounced WET-ee-ko) to describe the collection of beliefs that would produce behavior like that of Columbus. Wétiko literally means “cannibal,” and Forbes uses it quite intentionally to describe these standards of culture: we “eat” (consume) other humans by destroying them, destroying their lands, taking their natural resources, and consuming their life-force by enslaving them either physically or economically. The story of Columbus and the Taino is just one example. We live in a culture that includes the principle that if somebody else has something we need, and they won’t give it to us, and we have the means to to get it, it’s not unreasonable to go get it, using whatever force we need to. In the United States, the first “Indian war” in New England was the “Pequot War of 1636,” in which colonists surrounded the largest of the Pequot villages, set it afire as the sun began to rise, and then performed their duty: they shot everybody-men, women, children, and the elderly-who tried to escape. As Puritan colonist William Bradford described the scene: “It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they [the colonists] gave praise therof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully…” The Narragansetts, up to that point “friends” of the colonists, were so shocked by this example of European-style warfare that they refused further alliances with the whites. Captain John Underhill ridiculed the Narragansetts for their unwillingness to engage in genocide, saying Narragansett wars with other tribes were “more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies.” In that, Underhill was correct: the Narragansett form of war, like that of most indigenous Older Culture peoples, and almost all Native American tribes, does not have extermination of the opponent as a goal. After all, neighbors are necessary to trade with, to maintain a strong gene pool through intermarriage, and to insure cultural diversity. Most tribes wouldn’t even want the lands of others, because they would have concerns about violating or entering the sacred or spirit-filled areas of the other tribes. Even the of “enemies” is not most often the goal of tribal “wars”: It’s most often to fight to some pre-determined measure of “victory” such as seizing a staff, crossing a particular line, or the first wounding or surrender of the opponent. This wétiko type of theft and warfare is practiced daily by farmers and ranchers worldwide against wolves, coyotes, insects, animals and trees of the rainforest; and against indigenous tribes living in the jungles and rainforests. It is our way of life. It comes out of our foundational cultural notions. So it should not surprise us that with the doubling of the world’s population over the past 37 years has come an explosion of and brutality, and as the United States runs low on oil, we are now fighting wars in oil-rich parts of the world. That is, after all, our history, which we celebrate on Columbus Day. It need not be our future.

    Did you read the part, the women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth… Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.” Maybe perhaps that is what happened when they found some kids who knows? Sacrificing one’s self to God was seen as a courageous thing, so who are you to judge that? You shouldn’t really talk when you weren’t in their shoes and have no idea where they were at mentally when the Spanish came and enslaved them, to justify the Spanish as they deserved it mentality, let me remind you they killed for greed and that was not right, I doubt they cared if the “Aztecs” which I believe is a wrong term I think the english came up with that word the correct term is Mexica, killed themselves or their offspring, the better for them to be able to steal their wealth and resources.

  • HP,

    when studying ancient cultures or their remains it is important not to apply ones own moral standards. This is not cultural relativism but scientific objectiveness. I can easily study any given culture, including any of their cruel traditions and habits without approving or rejecting them. why? because it is not the purpose why i or other historians or archaeologist study the past. The main objective is to understand the past and people’s behavior, culture, rites, laws, morals etc. it is quite a pointless task to run around and say: “Oh, the aztecs were so bad because they killed their children.” or “Oh, the Spanish were so bad running around killing all the aztecs.” unless you want to make a political statement or utilise the past for ones own agendas. but this is not the purpose of the researcher. if any historian or archaeologist would directly apply modern day values to their research their findings would be quite distorted. An example: archaeologists of the 19th and early 20th century marginalised the role of women in prehistory, claiming they were of lower rank and had very little rights. this view was solely based on the fact that archaeology was basically practised by men who grew up in a society where women had no rights. they projected their own standards and values on the material culture of a past society with no real proof that this was in fact the case. what they found were very gender specific grave goods – weapons for men, domestic articles for women. this was evidence for gender specific role assignments but it did not mean that prehistoric women were seen as lesser beings just because they were doing work that is nowadays seen as inferior to the work associated with the male gender.
    so it is dangerous to apply ones own values because it leads to misinterpretation. it is indeed immoral to do so because it is the job of a historian or archaeologist to educate people about the past and not impose their own moral values onto people. this is rather the job of philosophers and politicians.
    besides, i find it quite pointless to demonise the spanish or the aztecs when everybody knows that both only did what they thought was right but ended up doing the wrong thing. i suppose hindsight is always the best sight.
    what i find more important though is how we apply the lessons from the past to our everyday lives? look around you and what do you see? history repeats itself over and over again because humans refuse to learn from the past.

  • Great post! I completely agree.

  • look guys(and ladies) i only had time to read abt the 1st 12 or so, so sorry to the rest of u. this is from a 15 year old, so if u want go ahead and discount it as nothing important but reality check im a part of the future. look, BOTH were wrong. iv been reading up on Aztec religion and literally was sick from it. if u know the brutality which they did this with, you might be sick as well. they held captives down (the priests did this) and stabbed them with a knife made of volcanic rock. they then tore the heart out, lifted it to the sky, and then burned it. they then pushed the body down the steps of the temple and continued with this. i tamed that down alot. if u do not find that sickening, then i have no more reason to wonder why there is so much violence in our schools, since that is how many of us were raised. but i know 1 thing, THAT IS WRONG!!!!! i dont care if u believe in allah or muhammad or The Christ, even a 15 year old can tell that thats wrong. yes its sacrificing to their gods, but as stated above they felt pain. also, every1 has a built-in sense of right and wrong. weather you admit it or not.

  • EVERYONE in this world are violent blood spilling savages. It is in every culture. Ancient or modern. The violence and death is only increasing. As humans, we have those instincts to fight and in some cases even kill. . All the atrocities in this poor world

  • PS: I am Mexican American, thus I have Aztec and Spaniard blood in my veins. I know both sides were murderers but I mean, as ancestors, what can we do now? What happened, happened que no

  • Indeed, all cultures are bloodthirsty. Whether it be the Mayans, Aztec’s, Spaniards, Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Arabian or Roman, they have all had their bloody wars, and violent crimes. Roman Gladiators, African “Tribal” wars and Slave trade, Piracy, Salem Witch trials, Spanish conquistadors… it matters not. It is simply a matter of human nature. We are addicted to the adrenaline rush when the blood starts to flow, and we like to sit on the edge of our seats in those “shoot-em up” action films. It starts with kids throwing rocks at one another to shooting bullets through their enemy gang member’s head. Religious debates to road rage to getting into flame wars on the internet, we all get excited with how we can next put someone down. Human’s are despicable creatures, no better than two dogs fighting over which is dominant, when in truth, we are all equally cursed with our own personal demons of corruption, and all together equal in this fact. It is a primal desire to move up the food chain, even if it has evolved to a point to where it is all mind games due to our sentient evolution putting our species at the top. The sad part is, no one can argue this without proving the point even further.

    I wish the world wasn’t so corrupt, but thats how we are, in the end.

  • Of course,Aztec and Mayan sacrifice was despicable and horrendous,but why do you all forget that Spanish and other so-called “civilized” “christian” Europeans destroyed almost completely native american culture and customs?! they massacred savagely,raped,stole indian lives and lands in the name of God and catholich church,and today,American government does NOTHING to preserve ancient wisdom and knowledge,instead,they force them to live in reservations,treat them as inferior race.AND THIS IS AMERICAN DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM?!
    Sure,native indian culture had its faults,but Europeans weren’t innocent either,don’t you ignore that!!!!!!! if you want the truth,mesoamerican culture was,is and will always be great deal more superior and advanced than barbaric,blinded by fanatism and devoid from all medical,scinetific,and techincal knowledge European one,which claims to be the best,but it isn’t.

  • Smallpox out killed the Aztecs, Incas, Spanish, Portuguese, English, Americans, French, etc. combined.

    I don’t think anyone who is going around killing other people is what one would call an actual practicing Catholic, Protestant, etc. They are living false lives. Christ said to forgive and continue to forgive, not kill. Those aren’t His teachings……and don’t give me the religion has caused more wars than anything else B.S. WWI, II had zero to do with religion. As did Korea, Vietnam, etc.

    As for the Spanish not caring for the Aztecs human sacrifice? Who would? Would that crowd of U of M just passively line up for their hearts to be cut out? I suspect they would be against it and their cultural “relativism” would disappear awfully quickly. See some of the Spanish were sacrificed. They were committed. Students at the U of M? Reading about it 500 years later…..wow, talk about taking the easy way out. It was wrong. Oh me, oh my. Say that when your head is on the chopping block and your chest is being cut open.

    Hypocrites.

  • Richard Woodell

    To do the Aztecs justice, the practice of human sacrifice was not horrible to them, or even the victims themselves. To die on the sacrificial stone at the hands of the priests (or priestesses)was a great honor, offering an eternal place in the highest heavens. In the vast majority of cases the victims lay on the sacrificial stone voluntarily! In other cases some victim were offered their lives, but preferred the “Flowery Death!”{

Leave a Reply