Aztec resistance to assimilation under Spanish rule, 1521-1810

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gunnerson, Dolores A., 1923-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Aztecs; Acculturation; Mexico--History--To 1810


This study attempts to provide an ethnohistoric record of the acculturation process of the Aztecs under Spanish rule between 1521 and 1810. A major premise of this study is that the majority of areas of Aztec culture which have survived have done so because of their traditional association with the ancient Aztec religion. I believe the religion served to preserve the various aspects of culture because it continued to play a directive role in orienting Aztec society. Despite legal prohibitions which suppressed the public aspects of the religion, private rituals and religious values persisted because the Spaniards failed to recognize and understand them. Further elements of the religion survived because early priests often failed to truly indoctrinate their converts in the basic precepts of the Catholic religion, and because of the significant amount of religious syncretism which the Spanish clergy tolerated during the Colonial period. On the level of speculation, I have suggested that Aztec folk medicine may have been highly instrumental in the preservation of religious practices, and that it may, in fact, have provided the displaced Aztec priesthood with an area into which they could channel their energies. By maintaining contact with the people, become a clientele rather than congregation, the priests turned folk doctors, could continue magical practices and transmission of many ancient beliefs and values without arousing suspicion among the Spanish officials. Be this the case or not, it is undeniable that folk medicine, like virtually every other aspect of the culture, survived through its relation to the ancient Aztec religion.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [76]-81)


81 pages




Northern Illinois University

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