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The AztecsMexicas were the native American people who dominated northern Mxico at the time of the Spanish conquest led by Hernan CORTES in the early 16th century According to their own legends they originated from a place called Aztlan somewhere in north or northwest Mexico At that time the Aztecs who referred to themselves as the Mexica or Tenochca were a small nomadic Nahuatl-speaking aggregation of tribal peoples living on the margins of civilized Mesoamerica Sometime in the 12th century they embarked on a period of wandering and in the 13th century settled in the central basin of Mxico Continually dislodged by the small city-states that fought one another in shifting alliances the Aztecs finally found refuge on small islands in Lake Texcoco where in 1325 they founded the town of TENOCHTITLAN modern-day Mexico City The term Aztec originally associated with the migrant Mexica is today a collective term applied to all the peoples linked by trade custom religion and language to these founders Fearless warriors and pragmatic builders the Aztecs created an empire during the 15th century that was surpassed in size in the Americas only by that of the Incas in Peru As early texts and modern archaeology continue to reveal beyond their conquests and many of their religious practices there were many positive achievements the formation of a highly specialized and stratified society and an imperial administration the expansion of a trading network as well as a tribute system the development and maintenance of a sophisticated agricultural economy carefully adjusted to the land and the cultivation of an intellectual and religious outlook that held society to be an integral part of the cosmos The yearly round of rites and ceremonies in the cities of Tenochtitlan and neighboring Tetzcoco and their symbolic art and architecture gave expression to an ancient awareness of the interdependence of nature and humanity
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