Aztlán; The place of the seven legendary caves.
Aztlán is the legendary origin of the Mexica, later known as the Aztecs, as well as nearly all other civilizations that migrated South to the Valley of Mexico. In Mexican mythology, the Mexica people emerged from the seven caves carrying their wives into the world and thus were created. The land was harsh, filled with the beasts of nature, and the Mexica soon had to migrate to survive.
The location of Aztlán is not known. Most theories speculate that it must be located northeast of Mexico City, but its exact location cannot be pinpointed. It is commonly believed that Aztlán is located between 60 and 170 miles northeast of Mexico City.
The real difficulty in pinpointing the location of Aztlán is that more than one tribe of people have called it their home, and those tribes did not all likely come from the same place. As it is, Aztlán is almost more of an ideal than a physical place. It is the Spanish El Dorado, or the Jerusalem that may one day be rebuilt when the world's history comes full circle. Tenochtitlan was meant to be a sort of "New Aztlán"
In 1111 the Mexica people left Aztlán, poor and dejected. They were lead by religious leaders called Teomamas, or "Bearers of God." They would not arrive at their destination and settle permanently until 1345. The Mexican God, Huitzilopochtli, was an idol borne by the four teomamas. The idol's laws were passed down by the priests, and it dictated their course and the events of their journey. Seven clans, called calpulli, of Mexica existed at their outset from Aztlán. During longer stops in ther migration, they constructed temples, and courts to play tlachtli, from both wood and stone at differing times. They also went about the business of abandoning their elderly, who were a burden on them in such a vast overland trek on foot. The Mexica were stricken by drought and famine throughout their migration to what is now Mecixo City. They persisted nonetheless, as the promises of grandeur and utopia from their god Huitzilopochtli were a motivating force and were doled out quite liberally.
In 1163 the Mexica people settled near a large tree just before the New Fire celebration which marked the "New Years" of their calendar, occuring after each fifty-two year calender cycle. The tree split and it was taken as an omen from their god. They had an inquisition of sorts; only the most virtuous were to continue, and the weak and vile must be split from the tribe just as their tree had split. Almost immediately following this, there was another split. According to legend Huizilopochtli's sister (not mentioned until this point) was working sorcery and witchcraft and coercing the Mexica people. It was ordered that she and her followers be left behind in the night.
The Mexica celebrated two more new fires and unsuccessfully established two cities before Tenochtetlan was founded in 1345. The migration was not of a unified body of people. Various tribes of Mexica split and recombined along the way. The prevailing attitude was one of trying to recapture or refound Aztlán, which was remembered as a city surrounded by water and ripe with fish, birds, reptiles and all the conditions that fostered prosperous life. Tenochtitlan would be founded upon a lake in an attempt to mimic these conditions and reestablish Aztlán.
Bentley, Jerry H and Herbert F Ziegler. Traditions & Encounters. New York: McGraw Hill. 2003.<.small>
Davies, Nigel. The Aztecs. London: Folio. 2002.