1. Christian Conquistadors Forced Aztecs To Give Up Their Wives
When the Christian colonizers arrived from Spain in the 15th century, they brought the full force of their Catholic beliefs with them. Starting in 1529, the Catholics began converting Aztec nobility to Christendom with the aim of spreading it through the nobles to the lower classes. Part of the conversion included a demand to have only one wife, as polygamy was strictly outlawed under Christianity.
Under Christian law, any additional wife beyond the “primary” wife was an adulteress and immediately disinherited from the man’s family, and all children declared illegitimate. This forced monogamy had an immediate and disastrous effect on Aztec culture, as the many arranged marriages among nobility had forged alliances, concentrated wealth and settled disputes. It also left countless women with no legal or societal status.
Women who had woven cloth for their husbands before were now put to work by the Spanish in grueling conditions. The encomiendas were created, which was a Spanish labor system used in areas they colonized. The tradition of Aztec women as paid laborers was ended and men were put to work in cloth mills, ending the tradition of Aztec men as a warrior class. With the catastrophic changes to their culture and way of life, it is unsurprising that their Empire fell within a century of colonization.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:
“The mysteries of chili heat: Why people love the pain” John McQuaid, Salon. February 2015.
“Concubines and Cloth: Women and Weaving in Aztec Palaces and Colonial Mexico” Susan Toby Evans. 2008.
“How much for your love: prostitution among the Aztecs” Ulises Chávez Jimenez, Chacmool Conference Proceedings. 2004.
“Roles Of Men and Women In The Aztec Empire” History Crunch Writers, History Crunch, August 15, 2018.