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What do Mexican school children learn about the Aztecs?
September 15, 2012 11:34 AM   Subscribe

What do Mexican children learn about the Aztecs in school?

I'm particularly interested if there is (or has been historically) any official curriculum from government sponsored schools that incorporates Aztec history. I know little about the Mexican school system, generally, so I could probably use some background too.

Any sources you could recommend (in English or Spanish) would be welcome.
posted by GPF to Education (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mexican here.

The Secretariat of Public Education controls all public schools and most private schools curriculum (unaffiliated schools are very few and pretty worthless). They deliver free textbooks to all those schools (private schools may supplement their classes with their own textbooks).

Aztec history is a very important part of Mexico's history, so Mexican children are taught a general view, starting with the nahuas' arrival to central Mexico (and the eagle and snake myth which is depicted in our national seal), Tenochtitlan's foundation, their government, education, commerce, deities and religion, their relation with other empires, the arrival of the Spaniards and the wars and eventual overpowerment over the Aztec Empire.

We are also taught some nahuatl words, specially those related to words and names we still use. I studied in a private school in Mexico City's suburbs, and they took our class to Templo Mayor and the National Anthropology Museum.

Let me know if you have any specific questions.
posted by clearlydemon at 12:59 PM on September 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Thanks, clearlydemon. Your answer is very helpful.

I wonder how (if?) this has changed over time. I'd be particularly interested in any scholarly works that address the history of Aztec pedagogy in Mexico. The Secretariat website does give me some good ideas for research leads.
posted by GPF at 3:53 PM on September 15, 2012


I found the curricula for Elementary and Junior High schools (PDF). I'm in a very slow connection and the PDFs take ages to load, so I can't tell which years have prehispanic cultures history (we also learned about other cultures, such as the Olmecs and Mayas).

On preview: There have been many changes, some subjects have been dropped and others changed, specially as the government's political party changed from PRI to PAN (and regretably, back to PRI). For example, history always highlighted the institutions created by the PRI, and minimized their corruption; I expect this changed when PAN became the dominant party. However, I'm not sure if this affected the way ancient cultures were taught.
posted by clearlydemon at 4:01 PM on September 15, 2012


If I can piggyback on the question (I presume GPF would be interested in the answers as well):

To what extent are the Nahuas of today associated with the Aztecs of history (both in school texts and in the general perception)? I have the vague impression that they're just seen as poor peasants rather than the inheritors of a great tradition, but I'd be curious to know.

Are the historical Aztecs presented purely favorably (glorious resistance to conquistadors, etc.), or is there a countervailing image of them as an imperial power within Mexico (so that people oppressed by them were willing to help the conquistadors)?
posted by languagehat at 8:44 AM on September 16, 2012


Yes, I would indeed be interested.
posted by GPF at 9:56 AM on September 16, 2012


I have the vague impression that they're just seen as poor peasants rather than the inheritors of a great tradition...

This is true. I think the general impression is that the Aztec Empire died when the Spanish conquered it. The Aztecs are in the museums and archeological sites; today's nahuas (indios, which is used as a pejorative) are, as you say, poor peasants, maids, etc. Unfortunately, I don't remember if they were mentioned in the textbooks. I think they might be, even if just in an attempt to be politically correct.

Are the historical Aztecs presented purely favorably (glorious resistance to conquistadors, etc.), or is there a countervailing image of them as an imperial power within Mexico (so that people oppressed by them were willing to help the conquistadors)?

They are presented favorably, not only because of their resistance: it was a great empire and they created beautiful, wonderful things. However, we were also taught that the Tlaxcaltecs helped the Spanish (betrayers) because they were oppressed by the Aztecs, about the Flower wars and ritual human sacrifices. Those facts make it difficult to portray the Aztecs as Disney good guys.

For more detailed analyses on the perceptions of Pre-Hispanic civilizations and their impact in Mexican's psyches, I can recommend El Laberinto de la Soledad, by Octavio Paz (1960), and México Profundo, by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla (1987).
posted by clearlydemon at 10:29 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you read Spanish well? I remember learning about the Aztecs in detail for the first time in fourth grade. The free textbooks that they use in Mexico for this school year are available here. To get to the fourth grade book, in the drop down menus you can select Alumno, any school year you want, Primaria, and Cuarto. Then hit the yellow Buscar button. You'll see the textbook under Historia.

I very clearly remember going over the Aztecs and other cultures of the time in third grade of secondary school (and doing a HUGE project on it), but the curriculum for that grade seems to differ quite a bit from what I remember. Even though that link is for a telesecundaria (distance learning) course, I know they follow what I did in school very closely. Then again I was in secondary school way back in 2005!
posted by cobain_angel at 11:06 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Do you read Spanish well?

Yes - very.
posted by GPF at 12:18 PM on September 16, 2012


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