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4 - Myths

Once the people had peace and prosperity. However, their fate changes when the kind-hearted god Tezcatlipoca leaves them. In despair, the king turns for help to Mictlantecuhtli, the lord of the underworld. It won’t turn out well in the afterword how this story is related to the later Aztec Empire.


1. The Aztec System of Domination, The Tepanec Empire,” written by Carlos Santamarina Novillo, published by La Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid, 2006.

2. The Process of Cultural Assimilation of the Chichimecas Of Xolotl” by Miguel Leon Portilla, published in the magazine Studies on the Nahuatl Culture.

The Flaming Flower

Puro Mexicano. Love and Legends from South of the Border. Edited by J. Frank Dobie. Published by the University of North Texas Press. Denton, Texas.

Adapted by Carolina Quiroga-Stultz

Long-time ago the land of the Chichimec people was full of jade, opals, turquoise, and gold. Their fields full of golden corn and the rivers full of fish. For they had been following the teachings of the kind-heart God, Tezcatlipoca. Who taught them how to till the land, how to cut the stone to build temples, how to bend the iron and weld copper. Goodness ruled everywhere until Tezcatlipoca was defeated by Mictlantecuhtli, The Lord of Darkness and lost souls. Now Tezcatlipoca had to leave but before he promised to his people that he would return. Somehow after he left the songs of the birds were not sweet anymore, the blue sky was now gray all the time. Indifference and sadness ruled.

Xolotl, The King who had seen how sad and indifferent his people were, thought for nights, and at last he had a plan. He called his wise man and priests and said:

Xolotl: Moons have passed, and we wait, and we watch for Tezcatlipoca’s return, and in the meantime the hands of our people hang in indifference. The crops give little harvest, and our weakest neighbors come for our protection. For wakeful nights my heart has sunk in sorrow watching the apathy of our people. Once our land was the fairest, our men the strongest, our women the most skillful weavers and our gold were enough. But now, now I fear that we, we face danger in this indifference and danger must be met with danger!

Now at this point, everybody in the room has begun to say something like:

Wise Man: Oh! we should hear him!

Priest 1: He's a wise man!

Wise Man 2: I agree with him!

Priest 2: We should listen!

So Xolotl continued: Before, Mictlantecuhtli’s powers were only in one place, the underworld, but now they are everywhere. And I wonder if Mictlantecuhtli will not give us his aid, will not guide us on how, how to lift this danger that has fallen upon us!

Now at this point, everybody is terrified, because Xolotl’s suggestion meant treason to the memory of the kind-heart god Tezcatlipoca. But Xolotl wasn't done.

Xolotl: Quiet wise men! quiet priests! sit down! have I not called you for counsel? and have you not thought, what is the end to be? What is the end of this hurtful wait? The end of this ghostly fears that surround us every night? We were a grand nation; we were meant to last! we were meant to be powerful! we were meant to be great! but what is of us now? we wait, and we watch for Tezcatlipoca’s return, and in the meantime, we are lost and misguided! what is of us now?

Long they counseled, and at last, they agreed to meet Mictlantecuhtli.

The day came, and the journey long through the bowels of the earth, through narrow, and deemed corridors, until they finally reached Mictlantecuhtli’s court.

Mictlantecuhtli: Welcome to my Kingdom speak your needs!

Xolotl: Oh! great Mictlantecuhtli! We have come to ask you for your help on how to solve our problems!

Mictlantecuhtli: Your problems shall be my problems, but why should I help you? my name has never been worshiped! You have been following the teachings of Tezcatlipoca, and now I wonder, after so much the devotion, why did he leave you?

Xolotl: Oh! great Mictlantecuhtli we know not! we were a grand nation, and we desire for our men and our armies to be the strongest! our women to be pale and beautiful! and our gold to be endless! Teach us oh great Mictlantecuhtli How, how to be Supreme!

Mictlantecuhtli: Speak no more!

And at that moment Mictlantecuhtli reached into his pocket and pulled out a seed and said:

Mictlantecuhtli: This seed will give you what you ask of me, but it has a prize. You and your people must swear allegiance to me! you and your priests must worship me! only then you can be the possessor of this blessed seed and the harvest that you desire.

Well, the oath was sworn, and the seed was taken and planted. The next day Xolotl got up and went to the Milpas, the fields, among the long rows of golden corn right there a strange plant had grown, and it was bearing a flaming flower. As Xolotl amazes at sight, the flower bloomed.

But at that moment from the East came shouts of pain, from the west came shouts of anger, from the North came shouts of victory and from the South:

Child: Por favor señor! Don't take away my mama, por favor don't take away my Papa!

Brother had loved and tolerated brother; now, there was only pain suffering, greed, and hate!


Very well, friends, it’s about time to talk about the historical and mythical background of the story.

Let’s begin with the book “The Aztec System of Domination, The Tepanec Empire,” written by Carlos Santamarina Novillo, published by La Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid, 2006.

The author tells us that we could consider a story that contains supernatural elements to be a myth and therefore doubt about its veracity. Whereas in the case of stories that do not contain extraordinary elements, we could assume that it is a real story.

However, the reality is far more complex than that. Because in some cases traditional narratives were passed down avoiding mentioning extraordinary or religious aspects to make the story more appealing to Hispanic audiences. Let’s remember that many of the first sources that described the cultures they encountered, were Spanish soldiers or friars or natives that had learned the Latin alphabet and translated their stories.

In other cases, we have the opposite scenario in which historical narrations were adorned with mythical elements, but in the beginning, they were inspired by a real event. For instance, the myth that you just heard has a mythological structure. First, they tell us about a good god that abandoned his people and a king who feels he must go to the underworld to ask Mictlantecuhtli for help, which will result in the spread of hate in the Chichimecs world.

All these elements could indicate that this story is not real except for the character of Xolotl. According to the facts that I will share with you, this character did exist. Now the difficulty is to figure it out when did he live and who exactly was this king Xolotl.

Was it the legendary Chichimec leader that led the first tribe out of the caves? Or was it Tezozomoc? a Chichimec-Tepanec leader that called himself Xolotl to claim direct ancestry from the legendary leader, and decades before the Aztecs became an empire, Tezozomoc aged war against the descendants of the legendary first Xolotl to impose his empire, the Tepanec Empire.

In the book “The Process of Cultural Assimilation of the Chichimecas Of Xolotl” by Miguel Leon Portilla, published in the magazine Studies on the Nahuatl Culture, the author tells us that for good or bad those who historically were considered barbarians could also be considered transformational forces to those who were more culturally or technologically advanced. The clash between barbarians against those more developed cultures brought catastrophes and misfortune but also transformed both worlds. Among those that left a historical footprint in Europe and Asia were the Germanic tribes and the Mongols.

In Mesoamerica, those who were labeled as barbarians were the Chichimecas, who were also called Popolocas. A pejorative term that means barbarian due to their predilection of hunting and eating raw meat because they did not know the fire. However far from destroying or threatening a civilization what they did was to adopt and absorb a highly developed civilization that was in decadence, that is the Toltecs.

Over time the Chichimecas became the rightful heirs of the Toltec Empire and gave birth to the last splendor of the pre-Hispanic era, the Tepanec Empire and later the Aztec Empire.

The Aztecs tell a very ancient story about their origins. In which their ancestors came out of caves. Different tribes left the caves at different times, and the Aztecs were the last ones. The first ones who emigrated from the caves were the legendary Chichimecas of Xolotl. This visionary man guided his people to Tula, the capital of the Toltec Empire.

According to some of the descendants’ sources of this first tribe, their ancestors arrived in Tula in the year of 1179 but found the place abandoned. Nevertheless, there is a shadow of doubt over this claim because those who told this story to the Spaniards knew that the King of Spain would only validate their claim over the lands if those lands had been inherited, and not conquered by force. So, it looks like it was in their best interest to say that the legendary leader had arrived at a deserted land.

Whatever the real reason was, the Chichimecs were able to settle and establish their first capital in Tenayuca. It is also important to clarify that the Toltecs spoke one language, that is Nahuatl, whereas the newcomers spoke different languages. Nevertheless, overtime Nahuatl became the most spoken language in all Mesoamerica.

In addition, Miguel Leon-Portilla offers a comparison between the Germanic tribes and the Chichimecs, that give us an idea of how similarly both groups were perceived. The Roman writer Tácito said: when the Germanic tribes were not causing war, they were hunting and if not, they were wandering; that they did not have cities and lived separately and dispersed; also that they would open underground caves and dress with the skin of beasts.

When the Chichimecs of Xolotl settled in the lake area that provided good fish, and its mountains offered an abundance of game, they chose to ignore the ruins of all the past harvested crops and the old irrigation systems that the Toltecs had built. Indeed, those first Chichimecs of Xolotl were nomadic hunters and were not interested, at least not yet, in agriculture.

During Xolotl’s reign, migratory waves of other Chichimecs arrived and asked for refuge or simply for the opportunity to settle down. Among those were the Tepanec, Otomies, and Acolhuas. Xolotl welcome them and sponsored marriage alliances with the leaders of those tribes.

With the birth of Xolotl’s grandson, Tlotzin begins a more definite desire to introduce agriculture to the Chichimec way of life. Tlotzin, who was the first mixed-race leader whose mother was descendant of the Toltecs, he will show a genuine interest in modifying the nomadic and hunting lifestyle of his people.

However, despite his interest, it took several generations for the Chichimecs to finally include agriculture as part of their lives. The definitive change happened during the reign of Quinantzin. Still, despite his efforts, he could not avoid opposing forces and the final division of his people that led some groups to leave and head north.

A major factor that propelled a significant cultural leap in the Chichimec’s world happened in the year 1327 when from the Mixtec provinces, the Tlalotlaques arrived. This group of people was experts in pictographic books or painted books, and they also introduced to the Chichimecs their god, Tezcatlipoca.

Of course, the arrival of these migrants filled the void left by the separatist's groups and contributed to the acceleration of cultural development.

Around the same time, there was a second group that arrived at the area, the Chimalpanecs, who brought with them and advanced agricultural knowledge.

After that, the Chichimecas began to grow and grow, and other migrant groups came for help and refuge knowing that the Chichimec’s rulers were opened to welcome other cultures that could enrich them with knowledge, resources, and labor, that in time made the Chichimecs stronger and powerful.

However, to be honest with you, I do not think that this legendary Xolotl is the same character of our story. The first clue is that Tezcatlipoca came to be known by the Chichimecs only after the year of 1327 when the Tlalotlaques introduced the Chichimecs to him. So, our legendary ruler led a nomadic group of people that at the time only worshiped the sun and mother earth. So, this can’t be our Xolotl.

My suspicions lay on the second Xolotl, who was a Tepanec ruler, called Tezozomoc. Tezozomoc he called himself Xolotl, claiming direct ancestry from the legendary ruler. Do you remember that the legendary king sponsored marriage alliances with the first migrant groups that came? And that he gave to the leaders some of his daughters in marriage? Well, Tezozomoc claimed that one of Xolotl’s daughters was his ancestor.

Tezozomoc had intentions of expanding and creating the Tepanec Empire. Thus, he began to wage war against his other Chichimec neighbors. In theory, he achieved what he had hoped for but when he died his descendants began to fight over the throne.

This chaos became an opportunity for the Aztecs who were joined by other two groups and together dethroned the Tepanecs, began the legendary Triple Alliance and with it the golden age of the Aztec empire.

So, to me, whoever told this story, told it with a veil of nostalgia, for what the Chichimecs of Xolotl had accomplished and what a foolish king dared to gamble just to have more.


Very well friends this is all for now. Tres Cuentos advices you to look closely into historical events, you’ll see how they tend to repeat overtime, like a pattern we do not know how to break through.

Next time, the dispute of two gods will almost destroy the Kay Pacha, the Andean world. Until next time.


List of credits

Ethnoamerica –

New Order – Aaron Kenny

Tribal War Council – Doug Maxwell, Media Right Productions

Sao Meo Orchestra Mix - Doug Maxwell and Zac Zinger

Face off and Grave Matters – Kevin McLeod

City Plaza, Gaia in fog, Leofors Alexandras - Dan Bodan

Ghostly Music – Paco Sanchez

Funeral March - Chopin

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