Posted by: ayac | September 30, 2015

“People of the sun”

Many, many seemingly respectable sources say the Aztecs described themselves as “people of the sun” (or sometimes “people of the sun and earth”). But I’ve never seen anything like that in Nahuatl. What source does it come from? And if it’s authentic, what is the original Nahuatl? (It’s not encouraging that people apply the same phrase to the Incas.)

If it’s real, the translation might not be accurate, since the possessed form of “people” (itlacahuan) is normally translated “slaves” rather than “people of”. Unless it was “sun-people” (tonallaca? tonaleque? tonalteca?) originally?

The closest thing I can think of is Titlacahuan “we are his slaves”, “of whom we are slaves” — a name for Tezcatlipoca (and not the sun god).



  1. I think it comes from Alfonso Caso’s 1953 “El Pueblo del Sol”, though he may not have coined the term, I think he definitely was the main popularizer. He was the one I think, who first explicitly argued that Aztec civilization revolved around procuring sustenance for the sun through warfare and sacrifice, to ward off the inevitable destruction of the fifth sun.

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