Mesoamerica (Spanish: Mesoamérica) is a region and cultural area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries.
As a cultural area, Mesoamerica is defined by a mosaic of cultural traits developed and shared by its indigenous cultures. Beginning as early as 7000 BC the domestication of maize, beans, squash and chili, as well as the turkey and dog, caused a transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherer tribal grouping to the organization of sedentary agricultural villages. In the subsequent formative period, agriculture and cultural traits such as a complex mythological and religious tradition, a vigesimal numeric system, and a complex calendric system, a tradition of ball playing, and a distinct architectural style, were diffused through the area. Also in this period villages began to become socially stratified and develop into chiefdoms with the development of large ceremonial centers, interconnected by a network of trade routes for the exchange of luxury goods such as obsidian, jade, cacao, cinnabar, Spondylus shells, hematite, and ceramics. While Mesoamerican civilization did know of the wheel and basic metallurgy, neither of these technologies became culturally important.
Among the earliest complex civilizations was the Olmec culture which inhabited the Gulf coast of Mexico. In the Preclassic period, complex urban polities began to develop among the Maya and the Zapotecs. During this period the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures, and the Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya Hieroglyphic script. Mesoamerica is one of only five regions of the world where writing was independently developed. In Central Mexico, the height of the Classic period saw the ascendancy of the city of Teotihuacan, which formed a military and commercial empire whose political influence stretched south into the Maya area and northward. During the Epi-Classic period the Nahua peoples began moving south into Mesoamerica from the North. During the early post-Classic period Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtec, and the lowland Maya area had important centers at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán. Towards the end of the post-Classic period the Aztecs of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering most of central Mesoamerica.
El Tajín is a pre-Columbian archeological site and one of the largest and most important cities of the Classic era of Mesoamerica. A part of the Classic Veracruz culture, El Tajín flourished from 600 to 1200 C.E. and during this time numerous temples, palaces, ballcourts, and pyramids were built. From the time the city fell in 1230 to near the end of the 18th century, no European seems to have known of its existence, until a government inspector chanced upon the Pyramid of the Niches in 1785.
El Tajín was named a World Heritage site in 1992, due to its cultural importance and its architecture. This architecture includes the use of decorative niches and cement in forms unknown in the rest of Mesoamerica. Its best-known monument is the Pyramid of the Niches, but other important monuments include the Arroyo Group, the North and South Ballcourts and the palaces of Tajín Chico. In total there have been 17 ballcourts discovered at this site. Since the 1970s, El Tajin has been the most important archeological site in Veracruz for tourists, attracting over 650,000 visitors a year.
Juan de Torquemada (c. 1562 – 1624) was a Franciscan friar, missionary and historian in Spanish colonial Mexico, and is considered the "leading Franciscan chronicler of his generation." He is most famous for his monumental history of the indigenous peoples entitled Los veinte y un libros rituales y Monarquía indiana, commonly known as Monarquía indiana ("Indian Monarchy"), published initially in Spain in 1615 with a license obtained by Torquemada. Monarquia Indiana was the "prime text of Mexican history, and was destined to influence all subsequent chronicles until the twentieth century." The fact that it was republished a century later in 1723, in what has been considered the standard edition, is an indication of its importance. It was used by later historians, the Franciscan Augustin de Vetancurt and most importantly by eighteenth-century Jesuit Francisco Javier Clavijero.
Juan de Torquemada was born at Torquemada, Palencia, sometime between 1557 and 1565, with few firm data on his life, with much coming from his own work. He arrived in New Spain as a child and grew up in Mexico City. He studied philosophy and Nahuatl at the convent Grande de San Francisco in Mexico City, studying under Fray Juan Bautista and Antonio de Valeriano, an indigenous graduate of the colegio who taught him Nahuatl. He was ordained sometime between 1579 and 1583. In 1582 he moved to the convent of Santiago Tlatelolco, and he was made guardian of that convent in 1600. He also took over the administration of the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco.
|Click the "►" below to see all subcategories: