The Virgin's Children: Life in an Aztec Village Today

The Virgin's Children: Life in an Aztec Village Today





An absorbing account of the descendants of the ancient Aztecs and of the survival of their culture into the twentieth century in the Valley of Mexico is presented in this fascinating volume. Focusing on San Francisco Tecospa—a village of some eight hundred Indians who still spoke Nahuatl, whose lives were dominated by supernaturalism, and who observed with only slight modification much of their Aztec heritage—this story bears out the anthropological principle that innovations are most likely to be accepted when they are useful, communicable, and compatible with established tradition.

Nowhere is the Indian genius for combining the old and the new better exemplified than in the story of how the Virgin of Guadalupe came to fulfill the role formerly played by the pagan goddess Tonantzin and of how Christian saints replaced the Aztec gods. At the time of this study, the Tecospans still called the Catholic Virgin Tonantzin, but their concept of the mother goddess had changed profoundly since Aztec times.

Tonantzin the Pagan, a hideous goddess with claws on her hands and feet and with snakes entwining her face, wore a necklace of hearts, hands, and skulls to represent her insatiable appetite for corpses. Tonantzin the Catholic—also called Guadalupe—is a beautiful and benevolent mother deity who repeatedly stays God’s anger against her Mexican children and answers the prayers of the poorest Indian, with no thought of return.

In Tecospa the road to social recognition lay in the performance of religious works, and the neglect of ritual obligation subjected both the individual and the community to the anger of supernaturals who punished with illness or other misfortune. Religion was inextricably a part of every phase of life, and it is the whole life of the Aztecan that is recorded here: fiesta, clothing, food, agricultural practices, courtship, marriage, pregnancy and childbirth, death, witchcraft and its cures, medical practices and attitudes, houses and home life, ethics, and the hot-cold complex that classifies everything in the Tecospan universe from God to Bromo-Seltzer.

With a marked simplicity of style and language William Madsen has produced a profoundly significant anthropological study that is delightful reading from the first sentence to the last. The drawings, the work of a ten-year-old Tecospan lad, are remarkable for their penetrating insight into the culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780837120980
Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/28/1970
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 5.91(w) x 9.06(h) x (d)

About the Author

William Madsen (1920–2003) was Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction and Acknowledgments
  • 1. Aztec Heritage
  • 2. Conquest and Conversion
  • 3. Place of the Yellow Stones
  • 4. “My House Is Yours”
  • 5. Children of Fate
  • 6. Parents and Godparents
  • 7. The Mayor and His Neighbors
  • 8. God the Destroyer
  • 9. Pancho and the Virgins
  • 10. Hot and Cold
  • 11. Evil Air
  • 12. Witchcraft
  • 13. The Other Life
  • 14. The Old and the New
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews