National Geographic: Mexico confronts a complicated anniversary - by keeping Aztec traditions alive

They say history is always written by the winners. Here's a great article touching on the long-standing debates we have in the U.S. and around the world about what we've read in history textbooks . In this case, it's whether the 1521 surrender of the great Indigenous empire to the Spanish crown 500 years ago was a triumphant conquest, an existential tragedy or a genocide.

The usual textbook portrayal of a band of brave Europeans toppling the most powerful Indigenous empire in the Americas may have some cinematic qualities but has always been suspect, particularly to professional historians like myself.

On this anniversary in Mexico, men and women spend the day dancing, performing limpias, and keeping Mesoamerican—and particularly Aztec—traditions alive. Some of them study Nahuatl, read history, and try to make sense of those long-ago events.


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