Much is said, vaguely, about the aboriginal cultures of the American continent, especially in the center and south of it. The Mayan or Aztec cultures are the most important at a historical level, due to the great influence they had. However, there are more than a dozen Mesoamerican civilizations and cultures , some of which are more than 20,000 years old.

According to findings and expert archaeologists, Mesoamerican cultures such as the Huastecas, Tlaxcaltecas, Chichimecas, Toltecas and Zapotecas, among others, existed in this area of the planet. In this sense, it seems that America was discovered long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus (1492) and the Spanish Empire that came to settle their bases because of the wealth of these lands.

The origins of Mesoamerica

As we have indicated in the introduction, Mesoamerican culture or civilization dates back to pre-Hispanic times in the regions that now make up countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica. The beginning of the cultural and demographic proliferation was in the thaw, back in 7000 BC, a fact that meant the development of agricultural activity so that the inhabitants could subsist.

Over the years (millennia) and as the various Aboriginal communities evolved, other more complex skills were developed, such as architecture and the establishment of cities. As it happened in the beginnings of almost any kind of society, also the bases of a religion were settled down in which to lean , to carry out rituals and to worship the gods that were asked for help in difficult times.

The most relevant Mesoamerican cultures

Although it may seem that these societies emerged at the same time, research points to a temporal disparity between them. Below is a brief explanation of the most important Mesoamerican cultures.

1. Aztecs

Curiously, in the beginning the Aztecs were considered an inferior Mesoamerican culture because of their nomadic nature , until the 15th century when they decided to settle their own empire. They worked the land to improve cultivation, built boats for fishing and invented an irrigation system to supply water to the territory they governed.

The Aztecs began to use the term Mexihco, which in their language means “in the navel of the moon”, whose city – which ended up being the capital – founded in 1325 as Tenochtitlán, would end up being the current capital of Mexico. As the dominant tribe, the Aztecs decided to assimilate the weaker ones, creating a homogeneous community that would end up bringing together 38 provinces , all of them tributary for the development of the economy.

The religion they professed has been considered bloodthirsty because of the offerings they had to make to their gods, which often involved the sacrifice of human lives, prisoners of tribal wars or even family members. According to their belief, they had to feed the god of the sun, fertility and water in order to survive.

2. Maya

This is one of the most brilliant civilizations of the Mesoamerican cultures. They are credited with this exceptional characteristic because they influenced the development of knowledge in the region. As far as the American continent is concerned, from them came astrology, mathematics or writing . The Mayans were considered at the same time the merchant community par excellence, and were pioneers with cocoa, silk and cotton cultivation.

Religion was equally polytheistic, alluding to the worship of various gods, especially corn, which was the basic source of income and food. Coinciding with Aztec culture, also resorted to human sacrifice to please the gods, especially to avoid chaos and destruction.

3. Olmecs

The Olmec culture can be considered as the mother of the two previous ones, the architect of what encompasses the settlement of Mesoamerican cultures. They are attributed with the creation of writing and epigraphy, the invention of the zero and the Mesoamerican calendar . As for the artistic section, Olmec culture is easily distinguished from the rest, since its most emblematic iconography is formed by large statues in the shape of heads.

Olmec society was governed exclusively by theological laws. It is considered a theocracy of antiquity . The worship of the gods (it was also polytheistic) was represented in temples dedicated to them and idolatrous sculptures. In addition, there was an authority to regulate the creed: the figure of the Shaman, the equivalent of the Roman Pope.

4. Teotihuacan Culture

It is perhaps the least known and most enigmatic of all civilizations, since is believed to have disappeared long before the Spanish invasion . There are very few data about it. The knowledge we have about the Teotihuacan people leads to the foundation of the city of Teotihuacan, which means “place of the gods”.

The archaeological work led to the discovery of the city, which at its peak was considered a prestigious metropolis and the nerve center of Mesoamerica. Religion once again takes on a tremendous role in this civilization, and the temples of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, are witnesses to this.