MEXICO, 1486


The Spanish conquistadors did not have a special reputation for being sensitive or impressionable. They even forged a solid reputation as thugs torturing, massacring and blithely looting this America which they enslaved with fire and iron. Yet these proud warriors were impressed by the cruelty they witnessed from the natives: human sacrifices, cannibalism, tortured prisoners…
Hernan Cortès estimated that the Aztecs made more than 3000 sacrifices a year.


The feathered serpent of Quetzal, one of the main pan-Mesoamerican deities, participated in the creation of men according to Aztec mythology. Reduced to the state of bones by past destruction, it is the blood of the serpent god, mixed with the powder of human bones that would have allowed their rebirth.


If the Aztec civilization seems to have carried the sacrificial and violent logic to a high degree, the phenomenon seems to have been general over a large part of the South American pre-Columbian civilizations. The Mayas, roughly located in the same region but a millennium earlier, already practiced ritual sacrifices. Blood was, according to them, necessary for the survival of gods and men. The practice of self-harm was common. The men cut their penises and the women their tongues to collect the liquid and burn it, but prisoners and slaves were also sacrificed, an enviable fate according to their mythology, death being only a rebirth.



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